Somewhere to live
Although a decent home is one of the most basic requirements of a happy and well-regulated life, many people have nowhere to live, and many more live in unsatisfactory accommodation or are barely able to pay for the accommodation they occupy.
This country has a tradition of ‘home-ownership’ that is often regarded as fundamental to the ‘British way of life’. Arguably, however, this is a model that has only ever benefited a minority of the population, and mortgages are probably the country’s principle form of debt.
It needs to be recognised that housing is first and foremost a basic essential in people’s lives, and should only secondarily be a source of profit, whether from interest on mortgages or from capital gains arising from increases in house values.
Over recent decades there has been a continuing move away from public provision in housing, first promoted in the Thatcher era when local authorities were forced to sell off housing stock into the private sector but forbidden to use the funds accrued to build more public housing. This trend must be reversed.
National government, local government, and housing associations have crucial roles to play in remedying the situation. National government has its role in mandating and financially supporting local authorities, and in developing policies for urban renewal; local authorities should translate the vision to fit local realities; and housing associations are in a position to supply expertise and experience.
But even with enlightened housing policies there will still be many people for whom there would be virtually no prospect of having a ‘home of their own’ without more direct and personal intervention. Provision must be made for those who have little chance of achieving a regular income sufficient to pay either a mortgage or rent at a market rate.
This could be done either by certified housing associations or by government organisations, that would acquire and retain ownership of properties while transferring all right of use and access to its occupier. Such accommodation would be integrated into housing developments and programmes, and there would be an obligation on private developers to release a certain proportion of the accommodation they construct for this purpose.