Social Housing in the UK came into being when the Welfare state was created in the late 1940’s. One of the greatest strides taken in welfare in the UK.
Each County Council / Local Authority used to collect funds through a ratable charge on each property in their area, known as “the rates”. Non payment of these charges could mean a jail sentence, so the importance that every household paid it’s way was of utmost importance, to support the well being of all of us.
One of the great achievements of this system was the demand placed upon the Local Councils to provide Council houses, or Authority Housing for the needy.
This was intended to provide local housing for local communities, with money raised from those communities.
Also, in the 1960’s there were huge “New Towns” built, incorporating what became known as the “Council Estates”. The London overspills. Estates rather than towns were also built such as The Sheerwater and the Old Dean Estates in Surrey.
These New Towns, like Bracknell in Berkshire, Basingstoke in Hampshire, were built on farm land to house Londoners outside of London, due to inadequate supply of housing and the rebuilding of London due to it’s decimation during the war.
However, these estates were poorly thought out in their planning, and many became notorious for their criminality. Alleyways and tower blocks became the haunts for crime, drug dealings & intimidation.
During the 1970’s the UK experienced many Union Strike actions, mainly due to the then Government policies. The UK experienced a maximum 3 day working week, with electricity rationing, under the Heath Government, forcing a General Election, which Heath ultimately lost.
This turmoil led to rising UK unemployment and crippling higher mortgage / interest rates. As a result, local councils had to maintain and bear the costs of social housing, at the cost of other local services.
In the 1980’s the then UK P.M Margaret Thatcher, and her Tory Government, decided that because of imposed the expense / responsibility / burden of social housing on local councils, that tenants of Local Authority housing, should be allowed to buy the property they were housed in.
This was believed to be able to relieve the Local Councils of the millstone around their necks that was social housing.
However, in reality this led to many properties passing into the hands of unscrupulous owners, or Land Lords. These people made offers to buy the homes of those who had legitimately bought their own homes from the Local Councils.
Once the mortgage repayments, bills and running costs had caught up with the new home owners / ex-tenants, the new Landlords subsequently developed large property portfolios at the expense of those tenants.
Charging in excess of what tenants had been originally paying to the Local authorities, the rents increased dramatically with the private Landlords. Mortgage interest rates were at 17%.
As tenants became unable to pay the high rents, they were evicted from their homes, only to rely back on the Local Authorities to re-house them.
The now shortage of available social housing resulted in the Local Authorities resorting to renting properties from these Landlords in order to sub-let & house the evicted and homeless, and in doing so costing much more from public funds than it had originally been costing them, pre-the big sell off.
As a result, today there is very little social housing available, and laws protecting tenants from high rents and dangerous living conditions have been eroded, with offending landlords going unchallenged.
In 1990, the “rates” system was replaced by the Thatcher Government with what became known as the Poll Tax.
This resulted in more civil unrest, now being referred to as the Poll Tax riots, and was eventually re-thought, re-adjusted and renamed the “Community charge”.
Over the years, illegal immigrants / refugees who have flocked to the UK, are given priority over local communities in receiving what little housing is available to Local Authorities.
Social housing is a necessity in a welfare state, but current legislation only helps the wealthy landlords.
A New Political Party is needed to re-balance the provision of social housing for the communities that need them.
Legislation is required that :-
a) prevents such housing, paid for by the tax payer, from ever being sold /passed into private ownership, to anyone or any business. It has to remain in public ownership.
b) Strict contracts to be agreed between the Authority and the tenant that
i) will guarantee a cap on rents,
ii) will allow the Authority to “downsize” tenants when applicable, and pass the property to another tenant/s who need a larger home,
iii) such contracts to be re-assessed / re-agreed at 2 to 3 year periods,
iv) Anti-Social behaviour by any tenant (including their children) can result in a contract being terminated, the consequences to be responsibility of the tenant,
v) any damages to be paid for / replaced by the tenant,
vi) responsibility for the safety of the property to remain with the Local Authority,
vii) Local Authorities & the Contracts must be supported by the Courts.
c) those persons from the Local community to be given priority over others when applying for social housing in the area they currently reside / grew up in.
Future Local Authority estates / housing areas should be planned better than before.
Estates should not be a breeding ground for criminality, gangs, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour.
Nor should residential areas be infested with works vehicles, caravans and uncontrolled parking. Those vehicles should require their own parking areas, away from housing.
A Local Authority housing estate in the UK could be built to a very high social standard, similar to other European countries, i.e Vienna, Austria.
Communities should be built for the good of the majority, where people take pride in their homes and surroundings. It should be a tenants right to enjoy a quality of life, to be safe, & without fear or intimidation.
Communities where children can grow up happy, unexposed to crime, drugs or violence.
But it will take a New Political Party in the UK to achieve this.