Changing the meaning and purpose of housing

Norfolk Street

The type of housing build shown here is a direct result of us treating housing as an asset and not a home

At our conference over the last weekend we looked at a number of policy areas and I must say that I was delighted with the motions that were carried in the hall with strong support and nearly unanimous votes. I was particularly concerted with two of them. One was that which related to the NHS and I will blog about that soon. The other related to housing which I will talk about now.

I helped draft the motion and there are two elements of which I am most proud:

“That the concept of a ‘house’ as a home now too often takes second place to the idea that the prime use of a ‘house’ is as a financial asset”.

If society as a whole accepted this value of a building as a home not a sense of £signs it would have tremendous implications for the way housing is provided.

In Countries like Germany many ‘middle-class’ people do not own their own homes. They rent long-term and even invest in the place they call home over and above what the landlord does. They invest any money they have either in themselves – having a good time – or in areas such as economic investment in the stock markets which provides economic activity to general benefit.

In our society it is considered that if you get to 30 and haven’t got your feet on the home ownership leader you are in danger of becoming a loser. If you haven’t done so by 40 you are definitely one.

This concept of housing as an investment has changed tax regimes such as the old ‘Mortgage Interest Relief at Source’ taxation and still distorts taxation by increases to inheritance tax thresholds much of which is caused bey increases in property values and not ‘earned’ growth.

It ahs also brought into being a number of different investment models which are loathsome. Liverpool is suffering now because of the number of homes that were sold off and not replaced by the ‘Right to Buy Process’ and the fractional investment model which has seen people throughout the world losing their savings and pensions in holes in the ground.

We should never let Labour off the hook on this. During the 13 years of Labour Government the number of socially rented homes reduced by 330,000. The effects of this are homelessness and huge payments to private landlords through housing benefit.

The second statement that I am most proud of is this:

“Conference believes that having a decent, warm, appropriate home in a clean, safe and well-managed neighbourhood is a basic human right that could and should be readily afforded in a country as wealthy as the UK”.

This statement, of course reinforces the concept of a home. Do we want to live on an estate or in a community? Do we see our neighbours as friends or nuisances or just there?

There would be a huge reduction in the social services and mental health bills if people felt to be a valued part of a self-sustaining and self-caring community.

So that’s my nuggets but as ever, ‘warts and all’ I reproduce the motion below. As ever I would be delighted to debate with you the issues.

The Lib Dem motion

Conference notes:

  1. That the concept of a ‘house’ as a home now too often takes second place to the idea that the prime use of a ‘house’ is as a financial asset.
  2. The important role that local government has in delivering housing through its roles in the planning system, in social housing and in delivering housing benefit.
  3. That peak housebuilding was achieved in 1968 – the consequence of decades of low home building is the current shortage of housing, including the 125,000 children currently homeless.
  4. The number of homes that have been lost from the social housing sector, 330,000 in the 13 years of the last Labour Government, as Right to Buy took social housing away and allowed much smaller levels of social home rebuilding.
  5. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have changed the law to abolish the Right to Buy.
  6. Many councils are borrowing heavily to invest in commercial property.
  7. Recent investigations by the Liberal Democrats have identified empty residential properties in many areas.
  8. That many development projects fail to deliver the proportion of affordable housing agreed at the planning stage.
  9. The recent dramatic rise in the number of rough sleepers.

Conference believes that:

  1. Having a decent, warm, appropriate home in a clean, safe and well-managed neighbourhood is a basic human right that could and should be readily afforded in a country as wealthy as the UK.
  2. For many people home ownership is appropriate but for others it is neither appropriate nor affordable, and in some cases is not desired.
  • The concentration on the role of housing as financial assets has led to the creation of a situation where ‘house’ prices have moved far faster than wages for decades and where young people have been priced out of the market for home ownership.
  1. There is a fundamental difference between affordable housing (which delivers housing that key and public-sector workers can afford) and social housing (which delivers housing which anyone can afford).
  2. While much private rental property is of a good quality there remain significant problems in the private rental sector; in addition, it is not the appropriate housing type for some groups of people, in particular for families with school-age children.
  3. The current powers for local government to provide new social housing directly, to bring empty housing back into use, to enforce planning requirements for social housing and to plan for the provision of social and affordable housing are inadequate.
  • Empty Dwelling Management Orders have not proved effective in bringing large numbers of empty homes back into use.
  • Younger and single people have little access to social housing, which is contributing to the rise in rough sleeping.

Conference reaffirms

1 a) Liberal Democrat policy to build 300,000 houses a year by 2022.

  1. b) Liberal Democrat policy to allow councils greater freedom to borrow for the provision of social housing, including scrapping the housing borrowing cap.

Conference calls for:

  1. Local Authorities to be able to borrow from the Public Works Loan Board to buy land for housing and to build both affordable and social housing on the same terms they are currently borrowing to purchase commercial property.
  2. The development of housing cooperatives for the social rented sector to give power to tenants to run their own estates.
  3. Local government to have the power to abandon Right to Buy, depending on local need.
  4. The EDMO legislation to be reviewed, for the powers for local government to compulsory purchase empty properties to be strengthened and for the process for compulsory purchase to be streamlined.
  5. Local government to have the power to direct the use of publicly owned land before disposal (including land owned by the NHS and Ministry of Defence), including to require its use wholly or partly for affordable and/or social housing.
  6. Receipts from the sale of council housing to be used for the provision of new social housing by local government including meeting the needs of rough sleepers.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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