Whenever housing is mentioned, a national programme for the building of council houses for rent, once again, is a very popular idea. So much so as to be widely considered a no-brainer. And it is, isn’t it? Proper public housing, that is, not houses owned by private developers and called ‘social’ to make it sound reasonable.
Housing supply is inadequate for the demand, by the numbers, the type and affordability – actually affordable, relative to wages. Prices are high. Deposits alone can be more than the total cost of the two-bed flat I bought in the mid-eighties. This market means rents are also high. Work is precarious, pay is too low and life’s basics are expensive. Anyway, we know this.
There are the usual and perfectly valid supply/demand concerns over such issues as negative equity, preservation of an older home-owning voter-base, protection of asset values, rising interest rates, the ‘freedom of the market’ and so on. But they should not be prohibitive: two wrongs don’t make a right and to sacrifice the young and the poor for the sakes of flawed socio-economic ideology and the selective protection of vested interests is still a dereliction of State responsibility. It is cruel and unnecessary.
Government borrowing is cheap. The merits of a government borrowing to invest in the things that Society needs has broad, authoritative consensus. But we know that, too.
If our government borrowed to build council houses to own and rent, whether directly or through permitting local authorities, the state/local authority would become the landlord. No only would people living in them feel more secure which means less stress but the housing benefit bill would be smaller, having cut out the private profit bit and the rent paid by the majority would be a return on the investment, in perpetuity. It would be an investment that more than paid for itself. Win-win. I don’t get why this is not happening.
It didn’t take long for social housing to fall back off the agenda – Natalie Bloomer, Politics.co.uk