Wednesday, June 19, 2019

UNISON NDC19: Composite E - The Housing Crisis

This is the speech I gave yesterday afternoon. The debate continues this morning.

"Conference, John Gray, speaking on behalf of the NEC in favour of this composite which quite rightly highlights that the housing crisis is not only the lack of housing - it is also all about the money. The truth of the matter is housing is simply unaffordable for the many and this is blighting the lives of our members and their families.

Our members need truly affordable homes near their places of work but often they are forced into homes that are beyond their reach in the private rented sector since they cannot afford to buy and cannot get a social tenancy.

And while the crisis is much worse in the private rented sector, it is also in the social rented sector.

A new report by the Affordable Housing Commission says that 1.3m households are in unaffordable housing in the social rented sector.

This is mainly due to cuts and caps on basic welfare benefits and the rise in Tory defined “affordable” homes that are up to 80% of market rents. In my part of East London, some housing associations are charging £1100 per month for a 2 bed flat

The government continues to define affordability based on private market rates, which has no link to what our members actually earn. That is why we need a new definition of affordable housing that reflects what people earn and what they can afford.

Conference, this year marks the 100 year anniversary of council housing! A hundred years ago councils were given a duty to build homes “fit for heroes” to solve the housing shortage.

At the time councils were supported with land and government funding – and they went on to build over a million homes!

A hundred years later we face another desperate housing crisis, and councils – alongside housing associations - need to be given a new national duty to build new quality homes at scale and quickly.

Just like 100 years ago, the government must support councils with more money to return to their historic role of building homes. Remember, someone has to provide the difference between what people can really afford and the private market provide. If you have no subsidy, you have no truly affordable housing.

Remember, also, that for the first 18 years of my life governments of all political colours use to compete on who could build the most council homes and who can provide the cheapest rents.

Finally, Conference, Why is it in this country that we only build affordable homes after wars? If we can build homes in 1919 after the end of World War 1 and then do the same again in 1945, we can build homes now. Please support this composite

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