Public Housing Post Grenfell

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2018 National Delegate Conference
13 February 2018
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that the Grenfell Tragedy has transformed discussion about the housing crisis. Grenfell was an avoidable tragedy created by more than 30 years of political decisions to cut, deregulate and privatise across housing and public safety which has included:

1)Cutting investment in council and social housing;

2)Privatising Council Housing stock through stock transfer and Right to Buy;

3)Deregulating Housing Associations and promoting mergers into ever bigger businesses;

4)Deregulating fire safety control and inspection and controls over planning, design and materials in building;

5)Cuts to fire, health, and other emergency services;

6)Cuts to local authorities’ housing management and maintenance and through undermining trade union and tenant organisation and representation and not listen to tenants.

We recommit ourselves to stand in solidarity with the Grenfell victims. There must be Justice for Grenfell. Those responsible must be held to account. Those who suffered must be rehoused permanently within their chosen community.

Conference further notes that despite proclamations in the immediate aftermath of Grenfell from Tory ministers their policies continue to deepen the housing crisis.

The freeze to Local Housing Allowances (LHA) is making many areas increasingly unaffordable to people on low incomes. Together with Universal Credit and other benefit cuts, this is forcing up homelessness and evictions – termination of a private-renter tenancy is now the most common reason for homeless claims in many areas.

LHA rates have already fallen behind actual rents in nearly 70% of England, according to Shelter research. Families are chasing an ever smaller number of properties at the bottom of the market covered by housing benefit, or are having to make up the difference by cutting back on essential spending elsewhere. The LHA freeze will exacerbate this.

The controversial and widely-resisted Housing and Planning Act 2016 included further deregulation of housing associations and this is one of the very few measures in the Act which has been implemented.

Of 217,000 homes built in England failed to meet local affordable housing need in 2016-17, according to the Local Government Association (England).

Shelter’s investigation, released on 28th September 2017, which raised concerns that housing developers are using viability assessments to escape commitments negotiated with local authorities to build fewer housing association/council homes than initially agreed.

Conference welcomes the many progressive policies being developed by Labour on Housing under Jeremy Corbyn such as:

a)By the end of the next Parliament, building at least 100,000 council and housing association homes a year for genuinely affordable rent or sale;

b)Introducing new legal minimum standards to ensure properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ and empower tenants to take action if their rented homes are sub-standard;

c)Controls on rent rises, more secure tenancies, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for renters.

Conference believes:

i)That housing is a basic need and right, and that the housing needs and aspirations of people and communities should have a priority over a market approach;

ii)Housing Associations must be subject to democratic oversight and regulation;

iii)Council Housing management and other services should be brought back in house.

Conference resolves to campaign for a comprehensive housing policy that includes:

A)Building at least one million new council homes;

B)Retaining full ownership and control of available public land and ensuring brownfield land is made available to councils for council housing development and is not sold or transferred to private developers;

C)Increasing public investment in existing council and other commonly owned housing to ensure it is decent and safe including full government funding for all fire safety recommendations;

D)Reinstate and enforce independent fire safety inspection and building regulation;

E)Reinstating life time tenancies for Council and Social Housing Tenants;

F)Reversing moves to market rents for Council and Social Housing Tenants;

G)Suspend the Right to Buy;

H)Supporting communities by requiring at least 1:1 advance replacement, within the same neighbourhood of council homes sold or demolished under regeneration schemes, with a minimum of 50% of any additional housing for council rents;

I)A moratorium on estate demolitions without tenants having the right to a ballot;

J)Regulation of private renting to include controlled rents, secure tenancies and an end to no-fault and retaliatory evictions;

K)Repeal the Housing & Planning Act 2016;

L)End the Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts/caps – housing benefit should cover rents;

M)Working and campaign with our branches, forums, tenant and housing campaigns including Homes for All, Generation Rent, Defend Council Housing, Axe the Housing Act and others, and community groups, councillors and MPs who support this;

N)Housing Associations must be subject to democratic oversight and regulation;

O)Landlords must listen to tenants – regulate to ensure recognition and funding of independent tenants and residents associations and federations;

P)Restore full local, democratic and transparent planning powers;

Q)All new housing development to include at least 50 per cent really-affordable housing for rent;

R)Respect the traditions and rights of Gypsies, Travellers and Bargee-dwellers, and provide suitable sites to meet need;

S)Councils’ housing plans and targets must match local need for really-affordable homes for rent;

T)Trade Union rights for Housing workers.

We call on the Labour Link to work with the Labour Party at every level to pursue these policies.