Prompted by the finding in the ONS English Housing Survey 2013-2014, that house ownership in England had declined to 1989 levels, the Croydon Communist Party at its branch meeting yesterday (18 February) discussed the housing crisis. It concluded that home ownership would continue to decline, as would the provision of secure, rented accommodation. The Tory government’s Starter Home Initiative under which the private sector would be ‘encouraged’ to build 200,000 supposedly affordable homes (costing up to £450,000 in London up to £250,000 elsewhere) would only make matters worse. Not only were young workers now expected to live with their parents or rent for the rest of their lives (generation rent), they were to be left to the tender mercies of unregulated private landlords whose primary concern was property speculation.
In discussing solutions, there was support for regulating private landlords to ensure they offered secure tenures and fixed long term rents. The tax breaks they received should be curtailed. If these measures brought property prices tumbling down, including those of owner occupiers, so be it – provided home occupancy rights were protected rather than the interests of mortgage providers. This would require curtailing the rights of mortgage providers to evict. Such a housing strategy would succeed provided it was accompanied by an extensive programme of building high quality social housing for rent, preferably democratically accountable council housing. Some of this might be acquired ready built from the private sector, but a large building programme would also be called for. This would generate jobs and boost incomes. It was suggested that high rise should have a significant role in such a programme, but it had to be amenity rich and well maintained. As the rush by the affluent to buy expensive high rise apartments in Central Croydon demonstrated, the problem with high rise in the past had not been the height, it had been the lack of amenities and maintenance and the misuse of such property for social segregation and dumping.