Back to all Motions

2009 National Delegate Conference
29 May 2009
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the commodification of housing has led to the present housing crisis. Conference believes in a decent home as the building block for a decent life, enabling us to:

1)Bring up children in a secure and stable environment, providing life chances and educational opportunities;

2)Provide shelter, warmth, space and privacy as the pre-requisite for health.

However, Conference notes that the fundamental value of decent housing has been completely undermined by the breakdown of policies pursued by successive governments that have left us with:

a)Chronic undersupply of new homes by the big developers which has fuelled house price inflation and caused major affordability problems;

b)Record levels of indebtedness, which has flowed on from house price inflation and the massive increase in cheap credit;

c)Waiting lists of over 1.6 million as a consequence of the failure to build sufficient homes for social rent;

d)A dogmatic opposition to local authorities role as providers of new homes and managers of existing council housing;

e)An over reliance on the market to deliver affordable housing, through section 106 agreements and housing associations cross subsidising from market housing which now has major consequences for the development of new homes by housing associations;

f)An over-emphasis on home ownership as the housing tenure of choice.

Conference notes that the failure of housing policy is inextricably linked to the wider economic crisis. Much of the cheap credit that inflated the housing bubble was generated through unstable financial products, such as collatoralised debt obligations, which were developed by an under-regulated financial sector. Much of the subsequent credit crunch is fall out from the unsustainability of these products and the irresponsibility and hubris of finance.

Nowhere is the failure of the market clearer than in housing. Margaret Beckett has already conceded that the government target of three million new homes by 2020 is unlikely to be met. This will lead to increasing misery to the ever increasing number of people unable to secure housing with over two million households estimated to be on waiting lists for social housing in the next two years.

Young people have been particularly hard hit by the shortage of housing as they try to start and live independently, whether social rented, private rented or owner occupied. For those on housing benefit, under 25’s are directly discriminated against as they can only get benefit for a single room rate. This is based on a discriminatory view that young people should rely on their families for support, but this is not always possible such as young LGBT people estranged from their parents.

Conference reaffirms its view that council housing should be a central component in addressing this situation. Conference believes that capital investment in council housing should also be an essential part of the government’s plans to ensure that the economy does not slip further into recession.

Conference welcomes the government’s more positive message on the key role of council housing over the last year but believes it is essential that the issue be given the highest possible priority to ensure that all councils are required to take full advantage of public money available to invest in council housing and to reduce homelessness.

UNISON members are both consumers of housing as tenants or owners, and as public sector workers suffer specifically from over inflated house prices and the lack of alternatives through public sector provision. In addition our members are workers in the public housing sector. This unique viewpoint enables us to contribute to the debate about the way forward from here.

UNISON has played a significant role in developing the campaign for the fourth option for council housing which includes:

A) Public investment to improve existing Council homes and estates and build a new generation of first-class Council housing with secure tenancies and low rents, managed by an accountable landlord;

B)Ring-fencing of all rents and receipts within a national housing revenue account and fully funded allowances to local authorities for the management maintenance and repair of Council homes at level of need, along with a level playing field on gap funding and debt write-off;

C) The call for a moratorium on stock transfer privatisations by Councils and arms length management organisations.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to develop a campaign that seeks to achieve:

i)A more balanced housing policy, in which there are a wider range options for decent, affordable housing including new council homes;

ii)More stable mortgage products offered within the context of a better regulated financial sector;

iii)A significantly expanded role for local authorities as providers of decent homes in the communities they serve;

iv)A more sustainable future for housing associations that i