Thursday, June 21, 2012

UNISON NDC 12: Housing - Composite G

This is my speech that I gave yesterday during the Housing debate on behalf of the NEC.  "Vice President, Conference, John Gray, Community NEC member speaking in support of Composite G

Housing is a huge issue for UNISON, for our members, their families and communities. Yes, we have tens of thousands of members who like I, work in housing. But of course we all rely on housing for shelter, security and warmth.

But if you talk to any UNISON member, whether they work in housing or not, you will get a clear sense that something indeed is rotten with the state of housing in the UK. Even if you personally do have a home, we will all know someone who is struggling to find somewhere suitable and affordable to live.

The housing voice enquiry, led by UNISON, into the affordable housing crisis highlighted what the problems are.  The average number of new homes being built in the UK every year is at least 100,000 below what is needed. This growing failure of supply to meet demand is pushing housing costs up at the very same time our incomes are being hit.

In this context the housing options open to people on low to middle incomes have frankly been decimated.  In the year 2000 - households needed to save 16 per cent of their income for a deposit on a house. By 2009, post banker’s crisis, this had gone up 4 fold to 64 per cent.  The number of families on the waiting list is now 1.8 million. At the same time this Tory coalition government remains hell bent on cutting the money available for building new homes.

So a grim picture indeed conference and it gets even worse because it is the private rented sector where our members, will find themselves. Two startling facts from the UNISON member survey from last year.

One - that a third of our members have grown up children living at home with them 
Two - that there are now twice as any members living in the private rented sector as in the social rented sector.

The private rented sector of course does serve a purpose. It works for some people. But it’s also the sector with:

· the highest number of unfit properties
· people face the most insecure tenancies and the most unpredictable rent rises
· Rachman rip-off merchants, be they letting agents charging mysterious administration fees or dodgy landlords withholding deposits or not doing repairs.

The composite sets out a comprehensive programme of campaign work – all of it is valid, and will help us campaign for decent homes for all. Importantly it will also commit the union to campaigning for better regulations in the private rented sector.

The reality is that whilst we will campaign for more social housing, more of our members, their friends and family are finding themselves in the private rented sector. And they desperately need our help, our protection. Conference, please support this composite".

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