SNP: A Brave Move to Protect Public Housing

I’m impressed. Very impressed. Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that in Scotland the right to buy council houses has “had its day”.

She said: “We’re building record numbers of houses, but our ambition to substantially increase the supply of homes for rent will be frustrated if we sell them off under the right to buy.
“That is why I believe that the right to buy has had its day.”
She said the reforms to right to buy, first introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, would safeguard up to 18,000 houses, providing rented homes for those who most needed them.

Given the fact that in many respects the engine of huge parts of the economy and in many respects politics of the UK (and for that matter the Republic) over the last two decades or so has been shifting housing stock from public to private ownership, and the associated building boom of private housing, this is a brave, and much-needed move by the SNP. Although it no longer carries the political dangers that it would have in the past, it still is a move motivated by a more communitarian vision of politics than that which has dominated British politics since Thatcher took over.

Public housing goes to all sorts of important issues about the type of society we want – the role of the state and public responsibility, environmental protection (ask anyone whose new house is on a flood plain about this), the motor of economic development and others. The brand new housing estates in the south of Ireland with literally no-one living in them are indicative of the problem of having the construction of new homes as the engine of your economy, never mind the impact of so-called toxic assets worldwide on the economy and the taxpayer, although again it is hard to find a better example than the Republic’s NAMA of the idiocy involved. Much of the debt people labour under is driven by the issue of home ownership, and property speculation.

NICRA raised the slogan not just of one man one vote, but also one family one house. It’s long been my opinion that the drive to have one person one house introduced under Thatcher is environmentally and socially unsustainable. Not only that, but I think that it will be necessary in future to adopt a more continental model of people living in flats rather than houses. As a WP member once said to me, where would you build large factories in west Belfast now – the space isn’t there; it’s all been given over to houses. The need for social housing is all the greater because of the increase in immigration – part of the reason for the increase in racism in Britain has been perceived competition for increasingly scarce public housing.

Given these circumstances, I think that the SNP position is a major step forward, and one which I hope to see extended elsewhere. They deserve a lot of credit. A good job.

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7 Responses to “SNP: A Brave Move to Protect Public Housing”

  1. splinteredsunrise Says:

    That’s very true. It’s struck me for a while that every square foot of land going spare in Andytown is having tiny flats and houses built on it. Where would you actually put anything productive? Or are we heading towards a postmodern peace process economy where everyone gets a grant to drink tea in the community centre?

  2. Garibaldy Says:

    Heading towards SS?!!!

    Seriously though, it displays a complete lack of strategic vision. This stuff might be more sustainable in the south east of England where loads of people work in the City and its environs, but we have nothing like that in Belfast adding that much to the economy without actually producing any actual goods.

    The closest we have is exactly what you say – peace processing. A post modern peace process economy is a brilliant description. It’s a situation that simply cannot last, and there will be serious problems when the grants dry up, probably within the next decade. I can’t see Cameron and Osbourne being so keen to pump money into that type of thing in the medium term.

  3. WorldbyStorm Says:

    Oi, this is great and very true…why isn’t it on the CLR? 🙂

  4. Garibaldy Says:

    Your wish is my command!

  5. Drithleog Says:

    there is certainly a need for debate on this issue. If the government or councils are building houses only to sell them so that they can be sold on again later at a profit by the occupier then what differentiates the builder from a private contractor / speculator in the long run?

    The whole concept of public housing was that the state would provide housing for those unable to house themselves and when that house / flat became available either through the death of the tenant or for some other reason then the housing unit still belonged to the state or council and could be passed on to another person in need of housing.

  6. Garibaldy Says:

    Agree Drithleog. We need to return to the previous form to a great extent. The whole homebuyer’s dream has proved to be a fallacy, especially in the south. Meanwhile public housing is running short, and that is feeding the rise of racism in places in England.

    You are absolutely right that the state should not be subsidising property speculation.

  7. Mike Says:

    Thank you for the post. It is always interesting to learn from the rest of the world and how they are solving housing problems that we in the States can’t seem to get a grip on solving. It is sad that we are too isolated over here and need to learn from other successes.

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