Coffin-sized existence pods: Grandparent legacies to Generation Rent?
Is this what Theresa May had in mind in her conference speech last week when she called for government intervention to tackle the UK’s “dysfunctional” housing market? You couldn’t make it up, could you? But yes, housing minister Gavin Barwell has come up with these two brilliant wheezes to address the national housing crisis – whilst maintaining the government’s continuing obsession with promoting owner occupation.
First, the housing minister has suggested relaxing the regulations on just how cramped a home can be. Maybe he doesn’t appreciate how many people, especially young and youngish people, already live in cupboard sized homes. Too often they find themselves having to share a bedroom with a total stranger, such is the crisis of affordability and space. That song about ‘Little Boxes’ comes to mind. More than half of new homes are too small for families as it is, as the Guardian has pointed out, concluding that this is one of the stupidest policy suggestions to come out of the housing crisis so far.
But that isn’t all. Gavin Barwell’s second suggestion is for grandparents to skip a generation and leave their homes to their grandchildren – assuming that they have homes to leave in the first place. This is increasingly unlikely, even for those who have owned their own homes in the past, given the pressures to sell up to pay for social care. Gavin Barwell’s mother might be able to leave her £700,000 home to her grandchildren. But this is hardly the answer to Britain’s failure to build, let alone to build genuinely affordable homes for rent, as well as building homes for sale.
Meanwhile the government is turning the perfect storm of the current housing crisis into a perfect tsunami. The Housing and Planning Act threatens to drive up rents in social housing with a ‘pay to stay’ tax on tenants, making rents unaffordable for so many households, driving people out, socially cleansing high cost areas such as inner London. Rather than promoting a massive building programme to provide more genuinely affordable homes for rent, the Right to Buy is being extended to housing associations, thereby diminishing the stock still further. Rather than addressing the problem of insecure tenancies in the privately rented sector, this problem will be compounded for all tenants. And so it goes on. This act is a recipe for increasing insecurity, creating even deeper levels of inequality, rather than addressing the underlying causes of the housing crisis.
But tenants and residents, trade unionists, housing campaigns, councillors, MPs and others are fighting back. On Saturday 22nd October 2016 the ‘Axe the Housing Act’ Summit will be gathering at 11.30 am at Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD to discuss the Housing and Planning act, why it’s unfair, unworkable and destructive and how we can resist it. A big grassroots movement is already growing, developing the fight for decent and secure homes for all. Be there on 22nd October. And bring your friends.
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