Whitstable Views: Our nation needs new council houses
Housing crisis UK
I was looking through some of my old articles last week. There was one about my attempts to find a flat in Whitstable a few years back.
I went to look at a studio flat on Tankerton Road. It consisted of one room with barely enough space to fit a double bed in, a stair cupboard with a shower and toilet squeezed underneath, and a Formica top meant to represent the kitchen.
“Living there would make you go insane,” I wrote. “A man could end up committing suicide in a flat like that.” The rent was £275 per calendar month. This was nearly ten years ago now.
The cost of flats has continued to rise since then. The cheapest I’ve seen recently is £650 a month for a one-bedroom flat. Prices go up steadily after that, to approaching £2,000 a month.
There is a housing crisis, not only in our town, but throughout the country.
It derives directly from the right to buy policy instituted by the Tories back in the eighties, as a way of breaking up the old Labour supporting council estates. The responsibility for housing was handed over to the private sector. Almost no council house building has taken place in the intervening years.
Meanwhile much of the old council housing stock has reappeared on the market as buy to let property. A recent study by the National Housing Federation has shown that the number of people living in private rented accomodation and claiming Housing Benefit has risen by 42% since 2008.
Building council houses
The cost to the taxpayer of directly supplementing private landlords through the Housing Benefit system was £9.3 billion last year. Much of that has gone directly into the pockets of some of the most wealthy people in our country. Ten members of the Sunday Times Rich List received a total of £2,032,000 in Housing Benefit in 2014.
People ask how we can afford this? But look at the figures: how can we afford not to?
- First appeared in the Whitstable Gazette Thursday August 25th 2016.
CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books
© 2016 Whitstable Views