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Credit: Money Week & Reuters
Credit: Unknown & Reuters

A damning new report from the The National Housing Federation (NHF), an independent think tank, has shown the true extent of the housing crisis and its disastrous consequences for both young people and the British economy in general.

The NHF’s report shows that the funding committed to building homes has fallen by more than 50% since the Tories came to power, from £11.4bn in 2009 to just £5.3bn in 2015.

Credit: National Housing Federation chart
Credit: National Housing Federation chart

Whilst spending on housing is down across all of Europe, it is far more pronounced in Britain, with expenditure from housing budgets falling to just 15% here compared to the 25% of our European counterparts.

David Orr, Chief Executive at the National Housing Federation said:

“We know we need more, better quality social housing. And yet, rather than putting public money into building the homes we need, we are propping up rents in a failing market.”

Orr was also one of the first amongst a plethora of experts to condemn the safety of Grenfell Tower for residents, telling the BBC that the:

cladding was not fit for purpose.

Over a million people are now on waiting lists for housing in Britain, and the demand for new homes is only likely to increase with the population expected to rise by 39% until 2039, the report says.

The NHF report also shows that Britain has an annual average benefit spend of €520 compared to the European average of €159, and that the government is wasting huge sums of taxpayer’s money as it is 23% more expensive to house someone in private rented housing as opposed to social housing.

For a Tory party seemingly obsessed with austerity and saving money, the report is utterly damning. It exposes exactly how they are wasting taxpayer’s money as well as completely failing to address the chronic shortage of housing.

As said by David Orr:

“Ultimately, this is poor value for the taxpayer and has a knock-on effect on everyone struggling to rent or buy.”

Credit: National Housing Federation

Unbuilt houses

To merely keep up with demand, Britain needs to be building 250,000 homes a year. However, confounding the problem further, this year the Tory government built just over half of that figure, at just 140,000.

Not only is this government missing targets but it’s also not building the right sort of housing. 114,000 of those newly built houses were built by private developers.

It is little wonder that millennials are deeply unhappy at the current housing market. Adding to the soaring cost of private rents, many of us can recount numerous rental horror stories of aggressive mould, antiquated heating, and deposits essentially stolen by unscrupulous landlords.

In addition to deep cuts in every other area of public services, Britain has also seen a catastrophic 60% rise in homelessness since 2011.

A study launched by former Tory minister David Willets shows that on average 18-36 year-olds spend more than a third of their post-tax wages on rent.

The report, released by establishment thinktank Resolution Foundation, coincided with the major report from the NHF, as well as speeches by Chief Exec Orr and Tory Community Secretary Sajid Javid at yesterdays NHF’s conference.

David Orr has previously taken a pragmatic approach to working with the government but yesterday he shifted his position, telling Inside Housing:

“..The offer that we now have for people who are on very low incomes is just not acceptable. We don’t have a good housing offer for people who are not already in social rent. We don’t have a good housing offer for people who are on very low incomes.”

Sajid Javid has responded to calls to increase house building with hollow promises, offering a damp squib of a green paper simply proposing mediocre reforms to the quality of social housing and the rights of tenants.

The paper will undoubtedly fall way short of addressing the poor conditions, steep bills and hugely limited housing options for young people.

It’s nowhere near the sort of action that will ensure working-class communities are housed in safe and affordable housing and ensure a catastrophe like Grenfell never happens again.

Solution

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey, who also addressed the conference, says only a Labour government can offer a solution to this crisis:

“Ministers try to hide their failure to build more affordable homes by branding more homes ‘affordable’. The Conservative definition of affordable housing now includes homes close to full market rent and on sale for up to £450,000.”

He continued:

“Ministers have turned their back on the millions of families struggling with high housing costs. It’s no wonder that public concern about housing is around the highest level in 40 years. Only Labour has a credible long-term plan to build the genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy that our country needs.”

Unlike the Tories’ plans, Labour’s promises are not hollow, with a Corbyn-led government offering increased social housing as a priority in their truly transformative package.

Corbyn also recognises that we need to address how wealth is distributed, and then tackle the disparate nature of the capitalist system as a solution.

Higher taxes on the very richest in our society, and reclamation of offshore funds will add a much-needed cash injection into our vital public services.

This desperately needed economic restructuring will never take place under a Tory government, but it must take place after it.

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