Monday, October 10, 2016

#Lab16: Axe the Housing Act Fringe

I am still catching up on posts about this year's Labour Party Conference. On the Monday evening of conference I was a UNISON speaker at the "Axe the Housing Act" fringe with Unite Assistant General Secretary, Steve Turner (seen speaking in photo), Salford Councillor, Peter Wheeler, and Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing.

To be clear the mood of this meeting was very angry about what is seen as the failure of Housing Associations to take on the Government over "Right to buy" and "Pay to stay". Councillors and activists from across the country at the fringe condemned this "betrayal".

Steve gave a lively and passionate speech about how this Act will spell disaster for working people on low incomes already in social housing and present day overcrowded and homeless families who desperately need homes. Peter spoke about the Act being a further attack on the deprived communities that he represents, many of whom live in appalling conditions and should have access to good quality, secure and affordable council homes. 

Eileen went through the Housing and Planning Act provisions, pointing out what could happen when social rents rise to market rates for workers on below average incomes, Councils are forced to sell off their properties to pay for the Right to Buy discount for Housing Associations and the disastrous consequences from giving tenants only short term and insecure tenancies.

A huge problem is that no-one really knows how the act will be actually implemented.

The Government have not yet issued regulations and guidance. This does give us campaigning opportunities since they will have to return to Parliament to do so.

I spoke about the need for there to be a coalition of residents, unions and the Labour Party to defeat the Act.  Many UNISON members are relatively low paid caretakers, porters, school cooks, admin officers and teaching assistants who will be caught out by "Pay to stay". They face massive and unaffordable rent increases. UNISON will be surveying its members to find case studies to illustrate what we believe could be many thousands of workers forced to move and leave their homes.

Present and future generations will be cheated out of possible Council homes since these homes will have to be sold off to pay for the Tory General Election bribe of Right to Buy for Housing Associations.

Finally, I asked everyone to understand that this is a political issue. Tell your friends, relatives and neighbours that the housing crisis is a political crisis. The reason why you or your son or your daughter cannot find a decent, affordable home is because of the political decisions made by this government. The only way we will solve this crisis is by supporting a government that makes a political decision to build more affordable and decent homes of all tenures. We must never, ever forget this simple truth - politics matter.

Hat tip photo Glyn Robbins
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