“A major expansion of council housing”

Giving local housing authorities the power to stop council house sales is essential to any hope of dealing with the homelessness crisis”

My view is that neither Starmer nor Nandy have any real clue, insight or interest in council housing. The Nandy speech was – frankly – empty rhetoric forgotten before she sat down.

Giving local housing authorities the power to stop council house sales is essential to any hope of dealing with the homelessness crisis. Britain is hopelessly over-centralised. Far too many decisions are taken at national level, even with the creation of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Senedd, the Greater London Authority and police & crime commissioners. Councils should have the power to end council House sales or end discounts. They would answer to their electors for their decisions.

Too many housing associations have badly lost their way. They too are also too dominated by central government. Clarion, one of the two housing associations of which I was a tenant before becoming an Islington Council tenant, is dominated by market rent schemes and shared ownership. Nothing wrong with either of those concepts (nor owner-occupation) but housing associations were intended to be small and either local and/or niche. They’ve ended up being the only form of social housing that the Tories will tolerate. The detest Council Housing ideologically.

Generation Rent makes it clear that there is no solution to the affordable housing crisis which doesn’t include a major expansion of council housing. That means the right to stop council house sales or discounts allied to a major building and open market municipalisation programmes. The government’s role should be promoting the build-up and proper timely maintenance of municipal housing stock, loan finance and dealing with construction skills shortages, not micro-managing.

We also need a new Community Land Act and a new land use tax to allow land to be purchased for council housing developments at reasonable prices and to stop land banking. Both should empower local authorities rather than require them to do certain things.

Some of the money required will come from lowering the universal credit bill as more homes become available at lower rents. At the moment we’re wasting taxpayers’ money subsidising the capital gains of private landlords.

Stephen Powell

Conference delegate Islington South

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