So acute is the UK’s housing crisis that Theresa May has even had to admit the problem. But the Tories are part of the problem and will do nothing to fix the broken system.
Britain’s housing crisis grows more severe by the day. Since August 2013, there has been an 8% increase in house prices nationally, with a 139% increase overall since August 1999. In London, the figures are much higher, at 22% and 222% respectively.
Wages have not kept up with these increases. Meanwhile, the prohibitive cost of rental or mortgage payments is placing millions in a dire situation.
The UK is supposedly one of the most developed countries in the world. Yet according to the housing charity Shelter, 81,000 families are homeless, and more than 1-in-20 homes are overcrowded.
To top it off, figures show that an astonishing 1.8 million people have stayed in broken relationships just to avoid housing problems.
Sitting on the solution
Behind the soaring house prices is a failure of both public and private sectors to provide adequate housing stock.
The reason for this is plain. Developers and landlords do not produce for public needs but to fill their own pockets. They are perfectly happy with the status quo, since skyrocketing house prices and rents flow straight into their pockets.
To add insult to injury, they are able to earn interest just by sitting on undeveloped land – especially land with planning permissions attached – or trading this land on the market.
But this is only half the picture. Whilst it is true that a huge expansion of housebuilding is needed, the shocking reality is that there are already 1.4 million empty homes in the UK.
These have been bought up by developers who have no interest in renting them out. Instead, these parasites only want to sell them on to the next developer for an inflated price, leading to a huge bubble in the market and further pushing housing costs towards absurd levels. Of course, it is the working class who suffer.
The situation is now so dire that even the Tory government knows it must do something about it…or at least say that they will.
As with all society’s problems, however, the Prime Minister’s hands are tied – tied to those of the developers, the landlords, and the capitalists!
Last month, in a 25 minute speech to the Royal Town Planning Institute, May called for a “great national effort” by the government, developers and councils to tackle the housing crisis.
May’s proposed policy is to encourage developers to build houses by threatening to withhold future planning permissions if they do not use those that they have already been granted.
Of course, even if this does encourage developers to build, no amount of hand-wringing will encourage the capitalists to actually utilise these houses as homes. Why would they when they can make profits galore simply by adding them to their portfolios?!
Even May’s fellow gangsters in the Tory Party recognise the flaws in her plan. One statement from the Tory-controlled Local Government Association, for example, read:
“Ultimately, the private sector will never build enough of the homes the country needs on its own. The government must back the widespread calls, including from the Treasury Select Committee, for council borrowing and investment freedoms.”
What a condemnation of capitalism from the mouths of its defenders!
Nationalise and expropriate!
It is clear that we need a mass construction programme of new social housing. As the Tory Party and their press dutifully remind the Labour leadership every five minutes, however, the money simply isn’t there within the limits of the crisis-ridden capitalist system.
How can the government invest in the housing needed when it has already spent all our money bailing out the banks? (This is the bit the right wing usually forget to mention).
Labour must solve the housing crisis, therefore, by nationalising the land, banks, big construction companies, and other major monopolies. These main levers of the economy could then be used to build and fund a massive programme of social housing construction.
Combined with the expropriation of empty properties and the big rich landlords, we could easily solve the housing crisis. This is the only way to guarantee decent and affordable housing for all.