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Lord Kennedy: Government ambivalence to council housing is 'frustrating and disappointing'

3 min read

Lord Kennedy argues that the Government is failing to consider the positive impact that social housing could have on dealing with the housing crisis.

The Housing White paper which was launched with a fanfare and build up over weeks and months had faded away almost before it was launched last month and is hardly, if ever referred to by the Government a matter of weeks later, unless prompted to by an Opposition politician asking a question which I will today. When I am asking about the role the Government sees for council housing in addressing the issues in our ‘broken housing market.’

The most frustrating thing about current government policy and the white paper is it gives no indication of any change in attitude. It is the ambivalence to the positive role council housing could play in dealing with what everyone accepts is a housing crisis, with far fewer homes being built to meet the ever increasing demand, that is so frustrating and disappointing.

The reliance on the ‘affordable rent’ model in many parts of the country and not just London is an unaffordable product that puts people under real pressure to make ends meet and provide a home that is safe, warm and dry for their family.

I grew up in council housing in Southwark during the 1960’s and 70’s and will be forever grateful that Southwark Council provided a home that enabled our family to thrive. It was at a price my parents could afford, they both worked to make end meet and it enabled my parents to take their family on holiday every couple of years, send us on school trips with other children and take up other opportunities that were made available to us. We were never rich, but we were happy and the housing we lived in provided by the local authority was a contributing factor to that wellbeing.

Official statistics show that in 2009/10 almost 40,000 social rented homes were under construction and that this had dropped to less than 1000 in 2015/16 a fall of 98% and the lowest since records began.

We need to build homes across all tenures as the Housing Minister Gavin Barwell MP said and that means giving local authorities the freedom to build social housing to meet the needs of their local community.

I will always speak up for council housing and social housing more generally. Safe, stable places where families can start to better themselves.

For this to happen there needs to be a sea change in the attitude to social housing and the benefits it brings. Unfortunately so far the attitude from the Government appears to be one that sees social housing as a restricted product only available to poor people for a short period of time and not an enabler to help families thrive.

I think they are wrong and I will be doing everything I can to persuade them of this most unfortunate error of judgement.  

Lord Kennedy of Southwark is the Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government

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Read the most recent article written by Lord Kennedy of Southwark - We need real leadership to resolve the building safety crisis and stand up for leaseholders


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