This is the speech I gave on Thursday on behalf of the NEC about the Housing motion put forward by London Region and my branch.
John Gray, Community NEC, speaking in favour of motion 36 as amended. I happen also to be a housing officer for 24 years whose substantive post is to help manage a large estate in East London with 7 high rise tower blocks.
Conference, for far too long, housing has been the political dog that did not bark.
Today there are 1,500,000 fewer homes available for a rent, that people on low incomes can afford, than there was 38 years ago - and the population has grown dramatically since.
I can say that this is why families with children, the elderly and disabled end up being housed on the 18th floor of a tower block.
The scandal that surrounds the Grenfell House tragedy lies not just in the repeated failure of government to listen to and act on the advice they received but in the Conservative political mantra that regulation is ‘bad’.
The Tories 38 year strategy of dismantling public housing has been the biggest privatisation in this country’s history. The Right to Buy was misnamed from the start – it was a Right to a Discount – and 38 years on, we find that huge numbers of the homes that have been sold are now owned by private landlords, in one case the son of the Tory Minister that introduced the Right to Buy, and often in companies registered in tax havens.
And the Tories knew that caps to the local housing allowance would drive low income households out of central London – this is social cleansing – and if the Tories have their way, it is what will happen in Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle too
In this parliament over £100bn will be spent paying housing benefit to private landlords and it won’t produce a single new home.
Conference, how can people afford to buy when house prices are rising at 5%, 6%, 7% a year and wages are growing at 1% or 2%?
Conference, this motion provides the basis for UNISON to play its role in ending the dismantling of public housing and beginning a new era of providing quality, safe council and housing association homes with good space standards at rents people can actually afford.
Please support this motion.