A roadmap to decarbonisation

    10th November 2022
  • To fix England’s housing crisis, scrap Right to Buy

    The government is more interested in headlines than housing reform.

    This article originally appeared in the New Statesman.

    This week’s A Fairer Private Rented Sector white paper, proposing measures to tackle unscrupulous landlords, comes hot on the heels of announcements on boosting home ownership. Last week the government said it plans to extend the Right to Buy to tenants who rent their homes from housing associations. Yet if the government truly wants to tackle the vagaries of the private rented sector, it needs to scrap Right to Buy altogether.
    “40 per cent of ex-council properties are being rented through the private sector”
    Right to Buy was one of the most disastrous public policy interventions of recent decades. Far from creating a generation of homeowners, it has fuelled the growth of costly and poorly regulated private rented housing, the subject of this week’s fresh wave of announcements. Recent analysis has found that 40 per cent of the two million ex-council properties sold through Right to Buy are being rented through the private sector and over a third of a million private rented homes in the north fail to meet the Decent Homes Standard. The policy has contributed to an economy that, far from growing wealth for all, creates inequality and the very suffering the government is purporting to tackle.

    Climate emergency is here. For local economies, this changes everything.

    As we head into a new decade, it is now impossible to ignore the fact that the climate emergency will be the dominant issue above all others in the 2020s.

    Whether it be Bolsonaro burning the Amazon or, closer to home, vast flooding across Yorkshire and the Peak District, events in recent months have breathed terrifying life into Greta Thunberg’s assertion that ‘we need to act as if our house is on fire, because it is.’

    8 ways to enhance the role of housing providers

    Housing providers have a significant role to play in the functioning of the economies in which they are based and in addressing social issues. They achieve this through the delivery of activities which complement and supplement public services and contribute to a variety of outcomes including around employment, and health and well-being.

    Like other place based anchor institutions, housing providers also have a key lever for economic, social and environmental change at their disposal in the form of procurement. All housing organisations will purchase goods, services and works and will have a process in place to design, procure and deliver these. However, the challenge with procurement historically is that it has often been overly bureaucratic, with price the primary decision-making criteria; and little opportunity to utilise procurement to address wider issues.

    After Grenfell: tenant empowerment and the end of cities as markets

    The Grenfell Tower tragedy raises huge questions about public sector austerity, growing inequality and the price we pay for treating homes as commodities. Neil McInroy gives his view to New Start on the way forward for housing, community relations and cities

    Neil McInroy: ‘If any good can come out of this horror, it will be a rejection of the idea that cities are predominantly a market’

    The horror of Grenfell is linked to deepening and widening inequality and injustice in our cities.  The chasm in housing choice and wealth – while particularly brutal in Kensington and Chelsea – is replicated across the country.

    We must accelerate the alternatives

    The economic crisis has turned into a social crisis and local economic policy is failing.  Poverty, inequality, affordability of housing, low wages, insecure work are now ingrained in our cities.  We need a new radical urbanism so that we address these issues and deliver better social outcomes at scale.

    However, there is an irony.  There is no shortage of wealth in our cities.  Whilst a few people and areas enjoy the huge benefits of economic success, many people and areas do not. Take a walk from any city centre.  Once you leave the global chain stores, buzzy restaurants, glorious public spaces, new urban living and high end retail, you will get to the district centres.  In these places, there is a different story.  You cannot always see the poverty and despair, as many areas have undergone a physical regeneration, but the signs are there.  Speak to people or an NGO and the daily hardship of surviving on low wages, youth unemployment and increasing housing costs, become evident.  This is not acceptable.  The future has to be about making existing and new wealth work better for local people and communities.

  • Stuart MacDonald

    Director of Research and Operations


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