Everyone should have a right to adequate, clean, safe and reliable housing. But even in a modern, civilised and wealthy society, such as the UK, this most basic right to safety and shelter is not being universally met.
Whether housing is provided through the private market or through provision of local Government, we aren’t in a situation whereby all persons are being afforded shelter that meets basic human needs.
The private market has become hugely distorted over my lifetime by the negative effects of unregulated capitalism. We have watched as housing has been turned into a commodity, something that is bought and sold purely for profit, with no detailed thought or planning as to where this would lead. My generation, and successive generations, are now largely unable to afford to buy a house in the area they grew up in. The baby boomers locked in fantastic gains in the country’s housing stock, buying property at affordable levels at often only one or two multiples of annual salary. But in a country with limited stock, with a diverse labour market and an economic system geared towards the better off, we can’t all win and benefit from continually rising house prices. You have to have losers in this housing market gamble.
We have been conned into believing that rising house prices is good for us all, not appreciating if your house has risen in value, so has everyone else’s. Your buying power has stayed the same and this upward spiral benefits only the top 5% and is greatly detrimental to those lower down the earnings scale. Is it right that teachers, nurses, shop assistants, government workers and other key workers aren’t able to house their families in the places they know and want to live in? Don’t these people provide huge benefits to the rest of us, keeping our infrastructure alive and providing the things we all take for granted? Why have we squeezed them and many other sections of society out of the housing market?
Isn’t it right for Governments to step in and influence this limitless capitalist power that exists in this rotten market, rather than propel these unequal gains to greater and greater heights? For two long the fat cats have wealded undue influence, keeping the advantages while others have suffered in poor, low quality and badly maintained housing.
Flooding the market with more and more cheap borrowing isn’t a strategy to make housing more suitable and affordable. We need the Government to step in, regulate the market in the favour of the tenant, in the favour of the key worker, not in favour of property developers and affluent foreign buyers. Make housing affordable, build more homes that are only sold to local families, that is priced as affordable for those on a medical worker’s salary. Make rents long-term, give the tenant the right to renew on their terms. Let the gains be had in the commercial property market, if that is the desire, let the stock market be used for gambling and con tricks, but allow the hard-working people of this country the unalienable right of a proper home.