No Political Will = We Don’t Care
The result of successive Government policies (though it has to be said it has accelerated under the present Government) the housing shortage, rough sleeping and homelessness in the United Kingdom is now at a crisis level.
It is also an acknowledged fact that in life you can never have anything that is both good, fast and cheap (and yes I do include fast food outlets).
When it comes to housing and the need to build hundreds of thousands of new homes no Government has the luxury of choosing at a time when it desperately somehow needs to deliver all three.
The problem is that we have been here before in the early 1970’s when thousands of new houses were built which thirty years later failed to meet the minimum housing standards and have cost billions of pounds to repair.
The reality is the term “affordable housing” is an insult to tens of thousands of prospective home owners or renters who have been excluded from the housing market many of who are in employment and wage earning.
Constant declarations by Governments that if elected they would build the required homes to meet the needs appear to be meaningless and unachievable mainly because of the lack of political will currently being seen in Parliament.
The Conservatives, many of who are landlords who voted against a policy proposal to ensure that all homes are fit for human habitation (it is still difficult to believe they voted against it) will never support a major building programme mainly because it would benefit those they believe wouldn’t vote for them anyway.
Jeremy Corbyn insists that if Labour are elected at the next General Election housing will be one of his major priorities but as vital and important as housing is the most important criteria has to be that they are not fast and cheap but good.
If the new homes are badly built the result in the future will almost definitely be a disaster for the families living in the homes.
Poorly built homes such as those built in the 70’s have consumed huge levels of Local Authority time and money and ruined the lives of tens of thousands of citizens.
Poor and cheaply built housing will also fail to be flexible enough to meet the needs of the modern family.
We know from experience that poor quality housing is a breeding ground of desperation for those living in it as they become increasingly isolated into communities that suffer from not having access to the basic services and facilities they need and deserve.
Worse still building poor housing leads to disjointed thinking and planning with housing being treated as a separate problem instead of as a major component of life including education and health.
The problem is that whoever is in Government and is the Minister responsible for resolving the current housing crisis fast and cheap may be politically expedient to answer the inevitable cries from the media and opposition of…..
“How many houses have you built Minister”.
In many respects it is a fair and reasonable question to ask but it isn’t the only question and whoever is in Government they will need to resist the calls to build fast and cheap and especially in isolated countryside locations.
Housing is the key component in a well structured integrated economic and social environment which can only be achieved by good planning with access to good transport and communication and facilities.
Importantly it has also to be “affordable” and especially homes for rental which is why in the UK we need to once again commit to a policy of building social housing that will be available to low wage earning families and individuals.
I’d like to see an end (OK I now its a pipe dream) to politicians promising unrealistic numerical targets and start to discuss how we can find a way to build good quality sustainable homes quickly.
It isn’t good enough to say that it cant be done.
Government has to find a way and perhaps a start would be to requisition/compulsory purchase some of the vast tracts of land that the local authorities and ministry of defence currently own.
The problem of course is the disproportionality between those who are listened to and those who should be listened to.
On the one hand you have the wealthy, usually but not exclusively white and male, who are not and are never likely to be directly related to or affected by the housing crisis.
On the other hand are the homeless and those whose living conditions are so poor that they are effectively homeless and alongside the homeless are those who are on low to moderate earnings who have no expectations of ever being able to own their own home amongst which are teachers, nurses, police and others working in our vital public services.
So will it ever happen?
Will any Government really get to grips with the housing crisis and build the good quality homes in the numbers required to address the housing shortage?
The answer as far as I can see is a resounding NO, and for one very specific reason which is a lack of political will.
But what is and why is there a lack of political will over what is a major problem for society.
Well, the homeless don’t vote, the disenfranchised don’t vote and if you are not likely to vote you don’t really matter and that is the crux of the problem.
Politicians in Parliament for all of their lamentations and protestations about the housing crisis in the United Kingdom and the people affected are immediately forgotten about once they leave the chamber and retreat to their subsidised bars and restaurants.
They effectively don’t care and they don’t care because they know that (apart from a very few) the people of the country – and this is the saddest thing of all – generally don’t care.
Put simply the next time you hear a politician accuse another of lacking the political will to address the housing and homeless crisis you should translate it as….
“I’m looking to score political points that the opposition don’t care…. but then again neither do I”.
Only when politicians start to listen more to those people who are currently listened to least and perhaps even more importantly stop talking, stop politicking and start caring.