This policy was passed by Left Unity’s national conference on 29 March 2014.
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.
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.
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 publically owned and democratically controlled council house building programme funded by central government at minimal interest rates.
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.
- 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 and to integrated provision for elders and to provision of outside play areas for children close to family housing.
- Vacant accommodation should be brought into use, by compulsory purchase if necessary.
- 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.
- Housing design to be aesthetically pleasing and to take account of existing designs of properties in the local area, with most social housing built to Parker Morris standards, with back and front gardens.
- Housing design to be eco-friendly and sustainably sourced and run, reducing the carbon footprint of all housing stock and improving energy efficiency. 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 and provision to remodel older homes where needed to meet access issues.
- To pilot the return of local authority building and renovation teams.
- To work to develop effective housing plans for flood prone areas.
- Every home to be equipped with fire alarms and sprinklers.
- 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.
- The legal right to rent strikes to be reintroduced and tenants organisations to be facilitated.
- To work with co-ops 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.
- 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. To at least equalise income requirements between buy to let and homeowner mortgages and to reverse all discrimination in favour of duty to let mortgages.
- 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 affordable housing in the development.
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.
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 house building 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’.
To this end, we invite supporters of Left Unity and all campaigning for dignity in housing and our other demands to attend a meeting on this matter in Liverpool, the first city to develop social housing, but now one of the cities most damaged by the government’s policies.