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Policy Document sent to the Liberal Democrats

Paper presented to the Liberal Democrat Working Party on Housing Policy,Cowley Street1995

An Integrated Housing Strategy

At the moment we have a very black and white situation. Crushing mortgages for some: increasingly expensive social housing for some; private rented accommodation for the rest.

We need to meet the basic needs of the people of this country. If this is done properly then we can ask for something back such as wage restraint. The state already provides defence, internal security, education and health; I feel we should add housing to this in a full and proper way (and transport!)).

Just as we would not want the free market to operate freely in the former areas we should question how it operates in housing and perhaps in the true sense of liberal democrats consider a radical new approach, looking at the whole issue of housing the people of this country and not just tinkering at the edges.

I suggest we consider the need for the state to extend its role more fully and into housing. After all one has to pay for housing and in a way cost wise it is immaterial whether provided by the state or the individual. The public still pay for it. (Issue of freedom?) There is no reason why the state cannot operate efficiently.

t the moment the onus is on the individual. Mortgages place an enormous strain on individuals. Social housing is available to some but with housing associations rents are high. (The subsidy for social housing being on the individual and not the property.) Others exist in a shifting world of high rents and low security from private landlords, homeless at the whim of the landlord. Billions of pounds poured down the drain in the form of housing benefit payments to these landlords.

Many people have negative equity on their property. Job security is low for many, many on short contracts of employment. Greater demands are put on the individual at the same time as the ‘rug is pulled from under them’. There are ghetto areas and areas of ‘privilege’ with illusory wealth in the form of their property. Those in employment are under enormous strain.

Issues that matter such as those of the environment or transport links to work, or work near to the home are pushed to one side.

Children at home when they should be starting a home of their own, especially with modern society. Pressures on all (is anyone monitoring the social effects of all of this?) A child may benefit on the death of their parents and thus releasing the equity of the property. People may benefit from selling their property but then will have to move to a ‘cheaper’ area transport to their place of work may be more difficult and local chances less.

Elderly people paying for nursing care as their home is regarded as capital so they have to sell it.

Who benefits form the current workings of the capitalist system? –I feel very few. Especially since the cost of actually building a house may be as little as £40,000; the rest consumed by allowing capitalism to operate above the needs of people.

Houses built are smaller and smaller etc etc.

My suggestions are first-

1)     That we should consider the whole issue of housing the nation afresh –then my radical solution.

2)    The Solution

“That housing should only be sold and bought through a Government agency or system of controls using where appropriate the skills and efficiency found within the free enterprise system.”

The price mechanism should be taken out of the matter. People should not anticipate making money out of the home they live in. (Potential of illusory wealth in most cases.) Prices would be controlled. People would receive a percentage on their investment. (less as the years pass with less personal investment as the policy becomes established.) The state would receive a percentage –to fund new housing projects.

The idea of state control would link into another of my ideas: that of state intervention not through ownership but through legislation and checks and balances and controls. Ultimately the state owns everything anyway.

A person would purchase a house or property by applying to the state office. The idea of paying enormous amounts for the home with all that entails would gradually become a thing of the past. Private ownership and social housing would be brought into line. All people need a home.

I would like the idea of a state office ‘bounced around’ to establish the most efficient method of running one. There would not be a free market for property. Offices / factories –I have not come to a conclusion on these.

The objectives

1)     To house all people including single people according to need.

2)     To have balanced environmentally sound communities.

3)     To house people at lower cost leading to pay restraint as they have less costs to bear.

4)     To reduce inflation

5)     Generate funds for housing projects.

6)     Allow people to give up properties to the state where there is negative equity or a crushing mortgage burden so they can start again. Costs carried by the whole community.

7)    Allow people to have larger homes.

8)     Free people from heavy private rents

9)    Integrate private and public housing.

10) Security of housing for all. Untold social benefits.

Pay Off

1)     Social stability

2)     A less selfish society

3)     A vastly reduced cost of housing benefit.

 Other housing objectives

1)     Provide housing away from private landlords.

2)     In certain areas such as those with terraced housing the tarmac streets could be ploughed up with a path in the middle. This would provide gardens for the residents. Plant fully grown trees. This would have a positive social impact. Access would be by bicycle and subsidised public transport at the end of the streets.

3)     Levy a small rate on new buildings (possibly old ones as well in terms of remedial work)

a)  According to their appearance so that estates would not all be built looking alike. A visually interesting building would carry less rate.

b)  A new building built with environmentally sound materials would carry less rate.

c) Build more communities. Many single people do not wish to live in bedsits by themselves or faceless hostels with changing staff and no security. They could be built along the lines of communities founded by the Carr Gomm society.

4)     Begin major environmental projects. Plant fully grown trees and make the environment more green ie on roundabouts use sculpture produced by a myriad of artists and students in this country.

I realise that these ideas are radical and might smack of socialism but I believe it offers a chance of providing housing for all

Bob Goodall