Council housing means so much to our union and to me personally. Good quality, affordable council housing is the best way to ensure that everyone has a place to call home. At a time when housing has become so expensive that many public service workers can’t afford to live anywhere near where they work, council housing is more important than ever.
More than all that though – council housing means so much to me, because like so many UNISON members, I was brought up in a council house in inner-city Leeds. I know that council housing is vital to our country’s future, because like millions of people it’s part of my own life story and I know what a huge difference it can make to any family.
That’s why I’m delighted that this week we’re celebrating 100 years of council housing.
In 1919, in the aftermath of war, waged by the wealthy but fought by working people, the Housing and Town Planning Act was signed into law. This straightforward sounding piece of legislation – also known as the “Addison Act” made the provision of housing a national responsibility, and saw homes “fit for heroes” built across the country. In the years that followed, millions of people gained the same security that my family benefited from.
Of course in recent decades, council housing has come under sustained attack. Instead of being homes for everyone who needs them, council housing is all too often spoken of as if it were an option of last resort, rather than housing for everyone.
I’m proud that UNISON has always stood up for council housing, against the so-called “right to buy” which decimated it and for the new council houses that our people and our communities need. So as we celebrate one hundred years of council housing, lets commit ourselves to fighting for another hundred years of housing as a national collective responsibility – for the millions of us who know what a difference decent council housing can make.
Read UNISON’s briefing “The housing crisis 100 years on: time to invest in a new generation of quality homes”.