Call for new Housing Initiatives in Liverpool

Liverpool Council needs to learn from the best of the past. Housing co-ops, of which the best known are the Eldonians, pictured here, provided high quality housing,which has been well maintained for decades and which have provided stability to their own and their surrounding communities

On Wednesday my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will call on the Liverpool City Council to commence a programme of encouraging new housing cooperatives and converting large properties into council run Houses in Multiple Occupation.

It is in response to a Labour motion which fails to recognise the fact that the social housing provision in the Country has been in decline under successive governments. Since the early 70s housing production, in both public and private sectors, has fallen behind housing need. Unless we recognise this and therefore the long-term scale of the problems and their solution, we will only be adding a sticking plaster to major wounds.

The most successful social housing in Liverpool has been provided neither by the Council or housing associations but by the housing cooperatives which are directly run by the people who live in them. In the late 70s and early 80s more housing co-ops (about 40) were established in Liverpool than anywhere else in Western Europe. They have stood the test of time with low void rates and maintenance costs and were described by Chris Holmes, the former Director of Shelter, “as oases of good community inside fractured communities” The best known of these is the Eldonians in North Liverpool whose work also led to the adoption of other employment, community and training initiatives for their Kirkdale community.

We will also ask the Council to look at the provision of its own ‘Houses in Multiple Occupation’ as a response to the Government’s recent decision on private landlord licensing.

We will move these suggestions which will include the idea of a special council on housing issues in response to a Labour motion, which, I think, provides nothing new.

In view of the likely reduction in both the money and powers needed to provide better housing in our City the Council needs to be more imaginative about what it does and what it encourages others to do. Housing cooperatives have worked well for the people that live in them and the areas in which they are situated. The biggest problems with private landlords come from their converted ‘Homes in Multiple Occupation’. We believe that we should take the bad private landlords on by undertaking our own conversion to provide a much better product which is much better run. 

Mayor Anderson is right to suggest that there needs to be a Council meeting devoted solely to this subject so that the Council can publicly take stock of the current situation; problems and opportunities and strive to work together. The poor quality of the Labour motion, which can be seen on the Council summons, shows the need to holistically and imaginatively review the situation. If we continually hark to the past and seek to re-employ old solutions to current problems, we will achieve little in terms of the much-needed stock improvement our City needs.

The full amendment to Labour’s motion is appended here:

Council Meeting – 15th January

Motion 14 Social Housing

Cllr Richard Kemp

Cllr Kris Brown

Delete paragraph 2 and insert:

It regrets that successive governments have failed to provide both the public and private housing that the Country needs and that production of new homes has fallen behind levels needed since the early 1970s. It notes that:

·       there were 333,000 less social homes in 2010 than there were in 1997;

·       that for more than a decade of the Blair/Brown governments councils were not able to build council houses with capital diverted to housing associations;

·       that the Right to Buy programme introduced by the Tories was followed by the Labour Governments including huge discounts on market values and the Treasury taking 75% of all proceeds;

·       that the so-called bedroom tax was introduced by the Labour Government in 2007 for tenants of private landlords and in 2008 undertook a pilot project for its implementation among social housing tenants.

However, it believes that continually talking about the past may be preventing a structured and rational debate about the future of social housing within the City given current pressures.

It therefore supports the suggestion of the Mayor of Liverpool to hold a special meeting of the Council to look at all housing in the City with particular attention being paid to social housing.

It believes that housing should be provided throughout the city in neighbourhoods which blend social and home ownership, different sizes and types of accommodation in communities which are clean, green safe and well managed.

It notes the strength of the housing cooperative movement in the City and asks for a specific review of the work the Council’s Foundation Company and RSLs could do to promote more cooperative housing where people do not rely on landlords but are able to make their own decisions about their homes and their areas.

It notes the recent decision by the Government to restrict the licensing arrangements of the Council for private sector landlords and believes that one response to this move would be for Foundations itself to become a provider of high-quality Houses in Multiple Occupation. It asks for a report to be included for the debate on this and any other appropriate social housing solutions to the licensing problems which will ensue.

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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