This policy was passed by Left Unity’s national conference on 14th November 2020

Housing crisis

There are many aspects to the housing crisis in Britain:

  • the bedroom tax,

  • relentless attacks on and removal from democratic control of social/council housing,

  • the virtual end to the concept of housing based on social need,

  • the cost and insecurity of private rental,

  • the prevalence of short term, insecure lets which damage the construction of viable communities and impact on children’s schooling,

  • the enforced movement of people from their local areas to wherever available housing is cheapest, thus breaking the links with the community and support,

  • the consequent human misery and disruption to Social Services and Educational requirements arising from forced movements of vulnerable people, the shortage of mortgages and the lack of affordable housing,

  • the unequal demands for income between Buy to Let and home ownership mortgages,

  • the scandal of viable housing standing empty,

  • the movement of right-to-buy houses into the private rental sector

  • the use of housing as speculative capital once again,

  • the rise in homelessness

  • and the slowdown in the house building industry.

These all make housing a key policy issue for Left Unity.

House building

A publicly owned building corporation should be established, to ensure that planned targets for house-building are reached and to provide permanent trade union recognised employment and ongoing training for building workers. The capacity of local planning authorities must be supported and increased, including investment in training and education programmes for the planning sector.

Campaign issues

Conference resolves that Left Unity should campaign for:

  • Dignity in housing for all.

  • The right to accommodation for all.

  • The immediate end to the bedroom tax and support for campaigns (including direct action and organisation in the communities) to see the bedroom tax abolished.

  • A publicly owned and democratically controlled council house building and refurbishment programme funded by central government grants, and borrowing at minimal interest rates. Council debts to the government should be written off.

Conference therefore resolves to campaign on, and instructs future elected representatives to implement, the following:

  • To increase the building and renovation of council, and truly affordable, housing to at least 250,000 units a year (with at least 60% of this being Council Housing). Define ‘affordable housing’ as linked to the ‘living wage’.

  • End the Right to Buy public housing.

  • Planning for housing to be within an overall town or city plan to ensure full access to social and recreational facilities for residents.

  • Planning of housing to be linked to plans for schools and health care, local employment, public transport, and to integrated provision for elders and to provision of outside play areas for children close to family housing.

  • No segregation between market and affordable housing including play areas. No to ‘poor doors’.

  • Vacant accommodation should be brought into use, by compulsory acquisition if necessary. Second homes to be subject to increased taxation.

  • Accommodation to be allocated on the basis of need, with right to life-long tenure and rents set at an affordable level within the living wage.

  • The rights of short-term tenants in both public and private sector housing be protected with respect to length of rental contract and termination of tenancy, an end to ‘no-fault’ evictions. No eviction for arrears due to income reduction during a pandemic.

  • Housing design to be aesthetically pleasing and to take account of existing designs of properties in the local area, with all new housing to be built to Parker Morris standards, with back and front gardens.

  • Housing design to be eco-friendly and sustainably built, sourced and run, reducing the carbon footprint of all housing stock and improving energy efficiency. Existing properties to be retro-fitted to reduce carbon emissions and energy use. Heating for all houses to be included within a neighbourhood plan to aim for the most efficient use of fuel, including utilisation of solar, wind and ground source energy wherever possible, and to promote use of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems.

  • Planning to recognise the need to build accessible homes. High-quality accommodation adapted to disabled and older people is needed more than ever and provision to remodel older homes where needed to meet access issues. Good quality housing for multi-generational households and a variety of household compositions must also be addressed

  • Tenants (including private tenants) must have real democratic input into the design, management, refurbishment, and control of their homes.

  • To pilot the return of local authority building and renovation teams. The wastage and profiteering created through deregulation and contracting out of public housing management, needs to be reversed and brought under democratic public control. The building workforce must be unionised, and proper apprenticeship systems developed.

  • To work to develop effective housing plans for flood prone areas.

  • Every home to be equipped with fire alarms and sprinklers, all flammable cladding materials to be removed immediately. Blocks above 3 stories to have two sets of exit stairs.

  • Rent control to be introduced on private landlords with rent increases only where necessity, in the context of repairing and refitting the rented property, can be demonstrated.

  • Housing rights and benefits for under-25-year-olds to be respected and previous caps reversed, ending the freeze on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) until a full review and reform of the benefit system can be undertaken.

  • The legal right to rent strikes to be reintroduced and tenants’ organisations to be facilitated, support for private renters’ unions including Acorn and squatters’ organisations

  • To work with co-ops and self-build projects within an overall local housing strategy.

  • To provide housing for workers in the area in which they work.

  • To protect the communities and allow people to live near family or friends.

  • The increase in domestic violence during theCOVID-19 lockdown shows that women must be able to evict violent partners, have adequate shelters, and good alternative accommodation if needed.

  • Local Authorities to be given the responsibility to safeguard standards in the private sector and to intervene where required.

  • Local Authorities to be responsible for regular inspection and approval of all rented properties with a grading given in relation to provided facilities, state of repairs and heat insulation.

  • To provide legal aid for housing cases.

  • To legalise squatting for emergency housing need or to bring vacant property back into use.

  • To reverse cuts in emergency accommodation with the creation of a diversity of units that meet all needs including self-isolation during a pandemic. To provide immediate and suitable emergency accommodation to all street homeless people regardless of immigration status.

  • Housing first should mean access to housing for all with support for other issues so as to enable people to remain in their accommodation rather than circling back into the streets.

  • To at least equalise income requirements between buy to let and homeowner mortgages and to reverse all discrimination in favour of buy to let mortgages. The Help to Buy scheme, and other policies which subsidise demand, inflating house prices and assisting only the well off, must be cancelled.

  • To use idle industrial capital to build sustainable and high-quality prefabricated housing as part of an integrated plan to address housing shortage.

  • Any private housing development to be obliged to provide some genuinely affordable housing in the development. An end to the ‘viability’ loophole that lets developers dodge their contribution to more affordable homes.

  • Housing Associations must be social housing providers not commercial property developers. Developments by Housing Associations should contain at least 75% genuinely affordable social homes. Housing Associations’ area of operations should be restricted to certain well-defined geographical regions and their size restricted to reflect the communities they purport to serve. At least 70% of the board of a registered provider above a certain size must be elected by their residents and junior members of staff.

  • Secure sites must be provided in every area for Travellers. Navigation authorities and riparian local authority landowners must stop the social cleansing of boat dwellers and instead set up a network of free moorings where boat dwellers can stay with decent facilities for 14 to 28 days without fear of enforcement, punitive charges or eviction

Left Unity calls for a radical reform of the planning system, nationalisation of development rights, the introduction of mandatory housing standards, a new National Spatial Plan to provide a coherent and holistic strategic approach to planning for major housing and infrastructure investment and a large scale state construction programme, in partnership with local authorities and local communities, focusing on the regeneration of urban areas. All surplus public sector land put to use in order to support the programme. Permitted Development Rights will be reviewed removing the right to convert offices to housing without a planning application. No public land to be sold or transferred to the private sector. The state should play a much greater role in the land market, capturing the unearned uplift in land value when planning permission is granted.

Left Unity’s housing policies will respect the needs and struggles of LGBTQ people, many of whom are estranged from their families, and have been hit by cuts and will be forced on to the street if the Conservatives scrap housing benefit for the under 25s. Left Unity notes increasing homelessness and ‘sofa surfing’ by LGBTQ youth because of cuts in emergency accommodation and refuges. No one should ever have to sleep on the streets or sofa surf. To ensure that the needs of LGBTQ, the elderly from all communities, and other minority groups are respected in housing and to build at least one LGBTQ shelter-extra care units in every major conurbation.

In the short run we want a crash course in environmentally sustainable home building with a preference for houses, refurbishment of existing homes, and appropriation and renovation of empty properties, which will revive communities.

In the longer term, a determined program of building good houses for cheap rents will bring us up against the heart of the property relations of capital, mainly the private ownership of land and the commodification of property

Left Unity recognises that there is much more than housebuilding needed to humanise and truly civilise our cities and wishes to work with international political campaign ‘The Right to the City’.

 


Left Unity is active in movements and campaigns across the left, working to create an alternative to the main political parties.

About Left Unity   Read our manifesto

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