Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Affordable Homes for Key Workers: TUC Congress 2023 Composite 07


This is the speech I made as a UNISON delegate at last months TUC Congress about "Affordable Homes for Key Workers". 

President, Congress, John Gray, from UNISON speaking in support of Composite 7. 

This motion highlights the profound impact of the housing crisis on all key workers across both public and private sectors.  My day job is being a housing worker London for a large Housing Association. I work in a regional team providing housing services to over 23,000 homes and to many vulnerable residents spread across North London.

In my own particular team, why is it Congress, that I am one of the very few who lives in the area we serve, North London?

Hardly any of the others are able to afford to live in the region and they have to undertake expensive and exhausting commutes before and after, a demanding days’ work.

While inadequate pay is one important reason, the main reason that I can live in North London is simply my age. Despite my youthful looks, I was lucky enough to be working in London at a time when a housing worker could afford to buy a one-bedroom flat in the late 1980s, on a multiple of just over 3x their annual wage. 

But due to house inflation vastly outstripping pay, there is no way that my colleagues on current wages could afford to buy the very same flat in 2023 since this same flat would require a multiple of nearly 9x their salary.

As a UNISON NEC member for all Housing Association and Charity workers, I know this is not just a “London” thing. In all our regions and nations, the housing crisis is worsening and blighting the experience of citizens and key workers, especially the low paid.

Congress, this composite recognises the devastating impact of the crisis on the provision of critical services across the board, and how this is having a detrimental effect on recruitment and retention, especially in services such as health and social care.

UNISON evidence shows that rising rents, mortgage rates and transport costs are putting rocket boosters on the cost-of-living crisis. This is pushing people into financial hardship, poverty and homelessness, with many having to cut back on food and essentials.

The churn of our members who are forced to leave high-cost housing areas is putting a strain on key workers, production and on service delivery.

Congress, the housing secretary Michael Gove has admitted that the Government should build more homes of every type, each year, especially social homes, but it is failing to build sufficient numbers of these homes, which is so desperately needed.

That is why we must step up pressure on the Government and political parties to take action to resolve the housing crisis by committing to building more social and more genuinely affordable homes in their manifestos for the next General Election. We have to be honest that this will require money, this will require government subsidy.

This should be at the heart of any strategy to alleviate the housing crisis.

Thank you, Congress, please support this motion".

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