More than a million people are lingering on waiting lists for council houses in England, says UNISON, as it publishes a new housing manifesto to see in the new decade.
But despite the housing crisis highlighted by that statistic, fewer than 6,500 low-cost social rented homes were built in England in 2017/18. More than 60% of the housing budget goes towards supporting home-ownership.
That, says the union, is unsustainable.
Hence the manifesto – Safe, Decent and Affordable Homes for All: UNISON’s vision for Housing – which examines the crisis and outlines solutions.
The crisis in England has worsened over the last decade, as the UK government has pressed ahead with austerity.
That means that public-service workers and ordinary citizens have been priced out of the housing market: they cannot afford to buy, while private renting is expensive, insecure and unprotected.
And most people do not qualify for social housing.
The government admits that the housing market is broken.
But UNISON says its unbridled emphasis on home ownership at the expense of quality social rented and other forms of housing is disproportionate.
As a consequence, housing inequality, overcrowding, rough sleeping, homelessness, poverty, rent arrears and evictions are on the rise.
“For far too long the housing needs of hard working citizens have been ignored at the expense of the privileged few,” says the union’s Sylvia Jones.
“It’s time for the UK government to take action and invest in the existing and new social rented homes that are so desperately needed.
“It needs to make buildings safe, improve the benefits system and protections for tenants in both the social and private housing systems.”
UNISON is calling for:
- a national house-building programme to construct 340,000 new homes a year, including 150,000 for social rent;
- a new definition of affordable housing, linked to people’s incomes rather than market rents;
- an end to the loss of social rented homes through schemes such as right to buy, which has already been ended in Scotland and Wales;
- welfare reforms so families are properly supported to meet their housing costs;
- a system which ensures no loss of social housing in regeneration schemes;
- a new ‘consumer regime’ in housing to raise standards and make homes safe, post Grenfell;
- affordable and stable private rents, permanent tenancies and an end to no-fault evictions;
- investment in the housing workforce to deliver a well-funded and resourced housing service.
Making housing policy work for working people
UNISON is committed to promoting policies for safe, secure and affordable housing – particularly when so many of our members who help provide vital public services cannot afford to live in the towns and neighbourhoods where those services are delivered.
As a member-led union, those policies and our campaigns are built on the experience of our members.
Do you have experience of trying to find an affordable secure home? Or perhaps you work in the housing sector, for a local authority of housing association?
Would you be willing to share your experience with your union? Please fill in the form below: