Ending the Housing Crisis

Rise will completely restructure housing to create a home for all. Successive governments have managed housing so badly it has led to a situation where living in a decent, secure, comfortable, and affordable home has become an unreachable aspiration for many. While politicians are expensed for accomodation, we have the injustice of many not being able to afford a home. Rise will not accept the present situation as the natural way of things.

Empty Homes

As of August 2021, there were 288,539 long-term empty houses in the UK, with 16% of them in Scotland, 75% in England, and 9% in Wales. Long-term refers to a property that has been empty for over six months.

Compare this against the 95,450 households in temporary accommodation as of 31 March 2021 of which 61.9% included dependent children. This adds up to a staggering 119,830 children in temporary accommodation with 1,350 in B&B-style accommodation.

Not all empty homes can be made available for use, but a large number can. The charity and campaign group Action Against Empty Homes has worked not only to bring the issue to the attention of governments, but also they take action to remedy the situation.

Rise in and out of government will work with organisations like Action Against Empty Homes. Organisations like this are integral to improving the situation, with their practical knowledge and obvious on the ground experience.

Social Housing

Between 2010 and 2018 central government spending on social housing was cut by over £21 billion.  Social housing builds have been on a sharp decline since the end of the 1970s and 1997 practically no social houses have been built. Housing Associations have taken up more of the builds, but the numbers built are far from meeting the need. In fact Housing Associations are now the main provider of social housing. It’s worth noting while Housing Associations provide social housing and many are charities, they are still part of the private sector and far too many provide poor quality housing.

Typically governments have preferred to fund the private sector with shared ownership schemes and so-called affordable rents.  At present £24bn of public money is paid to private landlords in housing benefit. If this money was being paid for social housing this would amount to a massive increase in council budgets and create a social asset.

We find ourselves in the situation where private landlords will in one year receive housing benefit equivalent to what social housing will receive in 20 years.

All the solutions we see to housing issues put forward by governments just do not work. Affordable rents are often unaffordable. Shared ownership comes with many problems and is also often unaffordable as well as carrying risks over higher mortgage interest rates, difficulty selling, poor maintenance of problems created by the builders, expensive leases and risk of the property being repossessed if the owner gets into rent arrears. Frankly, as per usual governments have taken the wrong path based on half-arsed ideologies that have created a serious crisis.

“Over the years since the 1980s, successive governments have fostered and promoted an obsession with home ownership. George Osbourne’s Help to Buy programme or the gift that keeps on giving as it is referred to by private developers, has pumped billions into promoting home ownership, fuelling private developers’ profits, and inflating the housing market. Loud and clear the message comes: buying is best, renting its poor cousin and social renting its destitute second cousin many times removed.”
Alan Townshend Group Chief Executive at Southern Housing Group

Much of the private housing stock is of poor quality. We have children living in hovels. There are more than 1.8 million households waiting for a social home of which there are 1.2 million in England alone. Many of those on housing waiting lists have been on them for five or more years.

Rise will set about a massive social housing build. It is such a shame 40 years have been wasted where not only could social homes have been built, but they could have been built to far higher standards. We will build social housing mixed in with private housing and the only way it will be distinguishable is it will be of a better build quality. Our builds will be of outstanding merit.

Rise will begin a process of renovation of existing social housing. This will be to the highest standard. Where housing is found to be of such poor quality that it’s not worth renovating, we will replace them with well-built, high-quality homes.

Rise will ensure that social housing has decent services, such as municipal gardeners to upkeep the area, concierges in housing complexes such as flats and readily available tenant offices to ensure the public can access support.

Where appropriate Rise new builds will come fully kitted with all built in white goods, as is the expectation in a modern build. This allows us to provide top quality equipment to our tenants. When we refurbish present builds we will also build in high-quality, well-equipped kitchens and bathrooms. In short, we will ensure we are excellent landlords.

Where previous governments and councils have gentrified estates under the guise of re-generation, we will give priority to council tenants and private resident owners. Rather than estates being demolished and re-built with “affordable” rents, we will refurbish existing estates and re-model them to meet the needs of the local communities.

Rise will also empower an overseeing authority to ensure housing associations are offering excellent service. The authority will be given powers to close down rogue housing associations.

To summarise, Rise will mark a sea change in housing in the UK, ensuring well-built and comfortable homes are a normal expectation that will be fully met.

Home Ownership

While rents costs have skyrocketed and security of tenancy have been removed, house prices have continued to increase way above inflation. Housing has become a financial market asset rather than being seen as someone’s home.

With houses being used as investment opportunities, the link to house prices and the state of the economy has been broken. While salaries have been dropping, house prices have continued to increase.

As shown in the graph, house prices have shot up and it has become impossible for many to get on the housing ladder. Paying a deposit is impossible if house prices are rising faster than a person can save.

Rise regards homes as a right. House price inflation is not a sign of a successful economy, but rather it is a sign that our priorities and economy are out of kilter with people’s needs. For too long people have had to spend far too much of their income to put a roof over their head, leaving them vulnerable should they be unemployed even for a short period.

Rise will end house inflation by:

  • Over time reducing the multiples on wage to mortgage loans. The more a person can loan means house prices inflate accordingly. In countries where larger deposits are needed to purchase it keeps house price inflation under control.
  • Stop foreign investors buying up homes. We will legislate to abolish the practice of buying homes and leaving them empty. Where foreign investors presently own UK homes, they will be taxed heavily to make it much less attractive to hold on to the home.
  • Rent to buy will be discouraged by:
    • Introducing taxes on unearned income that will make the market less attractive.
    • Build Civic Homes that will be much more attractive to the renter than private rents, again making the market less attractive.
  • With the increase in available homes the supply with outstrip demand ending price inflation.
  • Should house prices collapse, due to our measures, we will force building societies to renegotiate mortgages to reflect the value of the house, not the price paid. If this causes the end of some mortgage providers, so be it.
  • Heavily legislate temporary lets such as Airbnb.
  • End corporate property and land hoarding

In summary Rise will create an environment where houses are no longer gambling chips for the financial markets. We regard the right to own a home that doesn’t consume most of a person’s income as a non-negotiable right.

Private Rental

In 2016 Conservative MPs voted to reject a proposed rule that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”. The vote was on proposed amendment to the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill – a raft of new laws aimed at reforming housing law.

Despite rental homes often being in poor condition with precarious short-term tenancies, prices continue to increase. The graph shows rental price increases in English regions. 2021 has seen Scotland begin to see large increases in rental costs.

Rise will bring in new rules to ensure high standards in private rentals as well as introducing rent controls where appropriate. We don’t see private rentals as the best long-term solution as they tend to push up housing prices and draw public money away from councils. We will tax rental income, as it used to be, as unearned income. 

Homelessness

Broadly speaking, the law defines someone as being homeless if they do not have a legal right to occupy accommodation, or if their accommodation is unsuitable to live in. This can cover a wide range of circumstances, including, but not restricted to, the following:

  • having no accommodation at all
  • having accommodation that is not reasonable to live in, even in the short-term (e.g. because of violence or health reasons)
  • having a legal right to accommodation that you cannot access (e.g. if you have been evicted illegally)
  • living in accommodation you have no legal right to occupy (e.g. living in a squat or staying with friends temporarily).

A study in 2017 showed a large increase of homelessness to 307,000 an increase of 13,000 on the previous year and an overall increase of 29%since 2012. These figures keep on growing with homes becoming more unaffordable to both buy and rent.

Children are being heavily affected by homelessness. As shown in the graph, over the last 10 years the growth of children in temporary accommodation has been phenomenal. This accommodation can be B&Bs and can be very short term, out of the area of their school and very poor-quality accommodation.

When we look at the number of children in this type of accommodation, it is important to remember it is often sub-standard, overcrowded and with a lack of even a short-term permanence. In total 1.6 million children in Britain live in housing that is overcrowded, temporary, or run-down.

Rise sees the present level of homelessness and sub-standard housing as a crisis that should be dealt with immediately. We will:

  • Identify empty homes and make them available.
  • Renovate council homes to make them liveable.
  • Give priority to homeless families in our new and renovated builds.
  • Empower councils by providing necessary funding to ensure homeless families have the necessary facilities such as access to electricity, cooking utensils, white goods, and decent levels of food and other important supplies.

Rough Sleepers

There has been a large increase in rough sleeping. This can be attributed to cuts in mental health services, a decline in social housing with growing waiting lists and the overall unaffordability of housing.

The graph shows the trend more than the actual number of rough sleepers, as it is difficult to ascertain how many people are actually rough sleeping.

One of the areas where Rise will focus attention is the number of women rough sleeping. Due to a lack of hostels, women often choose to rough sleep, rather than stay at a mixed-sex hostel. Women rough sleepers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

Rise will provide homes for rough sleepers as well as physical and mental health support. Providing homes for rough sleepers meets only a part of their needs. When surveyed 44% of rough sleepers had alcohol support needs, 35% drug support needs and 47% mental health support needs with 14% having all three needs.

Where rough sleepers prefer not to take up the offer of a permanent home, Rise will ensure sufficient good quality hostels are available with onsite medical support.

In Summary

Investors, the City of London, and governments purposely inflating house prices have distorted the property market. What should be a right for people has become an impossible aspiration for many. Those with a home are often paying extortionate rents or mortgages. Getting on the housing ladder will often mean that many cannot get beyond the first rung. Governments extracting the wealth from aged home owners to cover social care often means that family properties end up in the hands of landlords.

Paying for a home should not burn up the largest part of someone’s wage. It is a madness that people are working just to put a roof over their head because the market has become ridiculously inflated. It makes people into wage slaves and takes away their power and seriously undermines their wellbeing.

  • Rise will end this madness by making good quality homes available to all. Our homes will be energy efficient further reducing the costs to householders. Where homes need facilities for disabled people, we will provide the necessary support. We’ll ensure that excellent public transport is provided so that homes do not isolate people.
  • Rise social housing will be better quality than private builds. We’ll make it a point of pride to live in social housing rather than the stigma that is attached to it now.
  • Where people privately rent we will ensure through rent controls and strict rules on the condition of rented property that the accommodation meets high standards

To see our housing policies visit The Policy Hub or to influence our policies you can join Rise here

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