On of the biggest changes to the way we live over the last 30 years has been the rising cost of housing. Today in 2010, many families are forced to have both parents go out to work, simply to make ends meet, whilst my parents generation could afford to have one parent stay at home and look after the children-arguably giving them a better, more secure upbringing.
Now, a much greater percentage of household income goes on housing costs than ever before, and as the difference betwen RPI and CPI shows, it is rising faster than other prices. If housing costs were lower, then the need for wage increases would be less. People would have more disposible income, and therefore the economy would grow faster.
There is a shortage of housing, with millions of families on housing waiting lists, whilst others are living in over-crowded conditions which many of us think had gone out with the Victorian era. If people have decent affordable housing, then their health is improved, they feel secure and decent communities are built – reducing crime. You only have to look at the ideas behind the Garden City movement and the construction of Bournville to see the results. Ensuring that all citizens have decent affordable housing provides many knock-on benefits.
The coalition have decided that social landlords should now charge 80% of the local market rate, and housing benefit will be capped. Tenants will now have no security of tenure, and if their income rises above a certain level, they will be evicted. This is a blatant attempt to demonise Council House tenants, creating the impression that these houses are for the dregs of society. The truth is, that these houses were designed to give people a sense of ownership, a feeling of pride in their homes and communities. To give people the sort of security they are denied in the private sector. When my wife and I moved into our Council flat, we were able to decorate our home to our tastes for the first time ever. It feels like our home in a way none of our previous houses did. Our neighbours do not look down on us as people who rent (as they did in one of our previous homes), and a real sense of community exists here in a way we have rarely felt elsewhere.
Ed Balls, during the labour leadership campaign, put foward a plan for Housing which resolves many of these issues. Spend £6 billion on building 100,000 homes. Every £1 spent on construction generates a further £1.40 in the wider economy. Building those homes will create 750,000 jobs, in construction and in the supply chain. And by giving people the chance to live in a decent home with a patch of garden, at a price thats affordable (and not because they’re only getting half the house) will free up money for spending in the wider economy. We will have a vibrant growing economy, with citizens living in safe and happy communities.