Fair share for the North West
Government announces £8 billion pounds for affordable housing the
National Housing Federation in the North calls for the North West to
get its fair share. The money, announced alongside the
publication of the housing Green Paper, is around double the current
allocation for the country.
The Federation welcomes the extra investment in housing but advises
that it must include key infrastructure including public transport,
schools and the most obvious at the moment, flood defence.
Dealing with the aftermath of the current flooding must be the top
priority but the Government must not lose sight of the long-term
goal of ending the nations housing crisis.
Many towns and cities in the North West are at risk of flooding.
Without future development in these areas social and economic
decline will take hold. Homes at risk from future flooding must be
adequately protected. New developments should not be on high-risk
flood plains and where there is still a small chance of flooding,
proper defences must be in place.
The Federation also warns against maintaining the current way funds
are allocated. The North West represents around 13.3% of Englands
waiting lists yet receives only 5.8% of the current allocation.
Investment is urgently needed. House prices in the region are on
average £158,216. Around 4250 more new homes for social rent and low
cost home ownership are needed each year. This will help end the
misery affecting the 217,000 people currently on housing waiting
lists. Funding should match the regions economic growth
potential such as the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI)
areas which include Blackpool, Blackburn and Liverpool/Sefton.
Housing associations are now the biggest provider of social housing
in the North West and can match Government funding pound for pound
with private finance, meaning they can "deliver 2 homes for
the price of 1". Additionally they invest millions each year
on neighbourhood services as well as homes.
In addition the Federation calls on the Government to:-
· Allay peoples fears about the countryside being concreted over by
building, where possible, in brownfield land like former military
bases and disused hospital sites.
· Ensure house
builders meet the same tough environmental standards as housing
associations to dramatically lower domestic housing emissions which
make up 30% of the UKs overall Co2 emissions.
· Extend shared
ownership and Homebuy alongside exploring more creative approaches
to home buying, to helping people on the property ladder.
· Work towards
removing the stigma attached to renting, ensuring everyone has
access to an affordable high quality home.
· Remove the nimbyism
attitude showing that bold, dynamic housing and mixed communities
can add substantially to neighbourhoods.
Derek Long, National Housing Federation Head of North said:-
"The Federation have been campaigning for more homes for many years,
we are delighted that this is finally happening.
The North West has seen some of the largest rises in housing
waiting lists in recent years. Yes we are getting more money but
higher numbers of homes will be expected. Housing associations
represent the best value in providing affordable, high quality,
green homes to rent and buy. The demand is high, so must be
the supply. Getting this right will create a stable housing market,
strong economy and vibrant communities. This can only be achieved by
ensuring appropriate funding allocation to meet housing need in the
region. Adequate transport, health and education services must also
be provided. New developments must be of benefit socially and
economically and be made safe against the changing climate.
The work ahead lies in ensuring the homes are built to the right
standards and in the right places and are for the right people."
Letters To The Editor:- "Southport's Rotten?"
"Do people know
what awful things are above the heads of people walking past?
Pigeons are levelling a huge mess around the town and often doing
their droppings on the people below. One of these areas is by a food
outlet. I do not want to say the area, as it is not the shop's
fault. They have tried and tried to get rid of this vermin. Sadly,
people are still deliberately feeding the pigeons, despite being
asked not to. One of the regular offenders wears a reflective yellow
jacket. The council must cull these birds as they are a real threat
not only to business, but also to the health of the people in our
town. The pigeons also get into property frequently and cause
problems and damage. It is now beyond a joke. One dead pigeon is
maggot ridden and rotting above people walking under it. It was
shredding maggots on to the people this week and yet this has not
been removed! I think this is worse than the A-boards that the
council is so keen to remove. I have informed many people about this
and yet the dead pigeon is still above, rotting away. Also the other
pigeons, that are still alive, are still next to it! Sefton wake up
and smell the coffee, or in this case the rotting bird!"
Pam, from Southport.
Editor’s note:- "I have taken a look and noted it as you can
see. I have also attempted to contact Sefton Environmental Health
about it as well. I can also say that it has now been removed."
Green Paper falls short on council housing
Green Paper falls a long way short of meeting the expectations of
supporters of council housing and the 5 tests agreed at the Defend
Council Housing conference on 12 July 2007 (see DCH policy statement). In
the face of pressure from a formidable alliance of council tenants,
trade unions, councillors and MPs government is still trying to
wiggle to avoid conceding the 'Fourth Option'.
The government's core strategy for providing new homes relies on the
private sector (including Registered Social Landlords). The private
sector has failed up to now to provide the homes we need and there
is no indication they will do any better in the future.
Alan Walter, Defend Council Housing chair, said after listening to
Yvette Cooper speaking to the Green Paper in Parliament:- "The
fact is that direct investment in decent, affordable, secure and
accountable council housing is the cheapest and quickest way to
address housing need today. The private sector alternatives cost
more - eating up a higher than ever level of households income, are
less secure and are totally unaccountable. That's why so many people
value a council tenancy over the alternatives.
Despite all the hype about home ownership demand for council housing
is high. Instead of goading local authorities into public private
partnerships the government should listen to the people and enable
local authorities to improve existing and build new council homes
themselves. We need investment to provide first class council
housing - not councils providing public land to subsidise home
ownership to satisfy government's dogmatic obsessions.
Improve existing and build new first class council homes and then
local authorities would be able open up their allocation policies
once again turning council estates back into the mixed communities
they used to be"
Pressures from supporters of council housing have got Ministers to
address some of the key issues we have raised. The Green Paper
discusses reforms to council Housing Revenue Accounts allowing
councils to retain all the income from tenants' rents and capital
receipts and formally talks about allowing councils to build new
council homes. But, at first reading, this seems to be largely
limited to pilot schemes and councils setting up a 'local authority
company' which are unacceptable restrictions.
The Green Paper does show that Ministers no longer believe they can
hold the dogmatic line they have been defending up to now.
Supporters of council housing will take advantage of the discussion
around the Green Paper to convince Ministers that demonstrable
support for investment in council housing and real choice for
council tenants means that government has to provide the 'Fourth
Option' of direct investment in council housing "as a
matter of urgency".
Gordon Brown, in his statement to Parliament on July 11, referred
back to the last 2 major house building programmes in the 'inter
war years' and after the 1950s. On both occasions there was a
cross party consensus that providing homes for the people couldn't
be left to the private sector. All our experience suggests that the
same logic should apply today. Years of disinvestment in
council housing has left many estates in urgent need of improvements
and the shortage of council housing has led to local authorities
restricting access to council homes to only those in most desperate
need. Alongside problems directly associated with cheap design and
building methods on some estates constructed in the 60s and 70s has
created a range of financial and social issues. But carrying
out improvements and expanding the number of council homes available
would allow councils to once again offer tenancies to the wide range
of people on council housing waiting lists creating the 'mixed
communities' government says it wants without requiring people to
take on the financial burden of a mortgage beyond their means.
It is positive that government has recognised its responsibility to
provide a lasting solution to the housing crisis. But the Green
Paper mistakenly places the major responsibility on the private
sector (including Registered Social Landlords). They have failed to
provide up to now the homes that millions of people need - there is
no reason to believe that they will do it now. They are sitting on
land banks, surpluses (derived from public subsidies in the case of
Registered Social Landlords) and in some cases planning permission
but still don't deliver!
The housing that the private sector does provide is more expensive
(taking up an ever increasing proportion of household income) and
less secure that council housing and they are also totally
unaccountable. Through a process of mergers and takeovers the
Registered Social Landlord sector is now dominated by multi million
pound companies operating across dozens of local authority
boundaries. Some are already lobbying for the right to float on the
Together this makes the argument for investment in 'decent,
affordable, secure and accountable' council housing
overwhelming. Local authorities are ideally placed to improve
and build new council housing themselves to provide decent,
affordable, secure and accountable homes. They should not be
required to gift or sell off on the cheep valuable public land to
subsidise developments that will be dominated by private housing.
1.6 million households on council housing waiting lists demonstrates
strong demand for first class public housing and many local
authorities want to get on with the job of improving existing and
building new council homes. Nearly 3 million existing council
tenants along with 1.63 million households on council housing
waiting lists want the 'Fourth Option' of direct investment to
improve existing, build new and maintain all council housing as
first class housing.
Our campaign is backed up by the TUC, most trade unions and
significant numbers of MPs and councillors from all parties.
The alliance of tenants, trade unions, councillors and MPs will be
stepping up our campaign over the summer to 'persuade' government to
implement the 'Fourth Option'. The issue is expected to be a key
debate at the TUC with most unions now affiliated to the campaign.
The last three Labour Party conferences have backed the 'Fourth
Option' (see Composite 10, 2006 Labour Party conference) and it
is likely to be back on the agenda at Gordon Brown's first
conference as Prime Minister.