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Housing Association Equity

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I find it extraordinary that any political party should suggest moving housing association property to tenant-equity status, but especially labour. We now have a bizarre position whereby the Tory party is in effect to the LEFT of the labour party on housing issues.

The whole, fundamental point of association housing was, and still is, to provide modest but reasonable homes to those who have absolutely no chance whatsoever of getting a mortgage. Association housing has, through draconian withdrawal of grants and a whole new culture of "own at any cost", lost a huge proportion of its allocation over the last 20 years.

The service that Association Housing has done for the nation is incalculable. While much of it was partly funded by local council and central govenment as well as by charities, the returns to society have been extremely worthwhile.

In circumstances where councils have been obliged to house people for one reason or another, Association and other subsidised or affordable housing has been enormously efficient compared with housing people in temporary accomodation, the cost of which is borne (very expensively) by the tax payer.

In essence, Association housing has filled the gap where private ownership on the one hand, and expensive temporary accomodation on the other, would have been the only alternative.

And now the govenment wants to throw it away and chuck such housing into the maelstrom of the market. Just as with council housing 25 years ago, this will inevitably lead NOT to a sensible transition, but a cynical opportunity for the wrong people to cash in on a valuable national resource, the profits from which never went back into housing but was spent profligately.

Why is there such a housing crisis in Britain? Why does the UK have one of the highest proportions of permanently homeless people in Europe? Because a hugely valuable source of social housing was sold off to the whims of a speculative market. Far from resulting in fair equity, this obsession that everything must be "owned" has resulted in billions of pounds worth of tax payer owned housing being sold off cheap.

This has had an enormous impact on the subsequent cost of social housing for the tax payer, which now has more than tripled in some cases because there is barely any dedicated social housing left in the UK. Consequently everyone is actually paying MORE, not less, in the effort to house thousands of families, children and single people in much more expensive and inappropriate B & B's, hotels and private acommodation.

This has distinct parallels with for instance the Rail Industry, which even hardened right wing tories, who once had the view that everything was capable of privatisation, now recognise should never have been cut up into bits and sold off to incompetent and inefficient private ownership which has resulted in rip off fares and appalling service.

There are some things which really do not work in private ownership. A mature and enlightened economic system has at its root a recognition that sometimes social profit is a concept to be respected. In this nation's greed to leave everything to the market we are in effect giving away huge chunks of valuable national assets which manifestly were not just a social benefit but also a financial benefit in the long run for the tax payer.

I despair.


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