What Housing Crisis?

I was going to write something about the so-called housing crisis in a week or two, when mentioning the appearance at the LSE’s 3-day ‘Resist’ festival of Simon Elmer (above) of Architects for Social Housing (ASH).

Lisa McKenzie who organised ‘Resist’ – one of several reasons for her victimisation by the LSE

On that occasion he gave a passionate and well-argued and evidenced indictment, ‘The Intellectual Bloodstain’ on a report by a group of LSE academics on Kidbrooke Village, a development by Berkeley Homes and Southern Housing, which you can read a little more about at Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE. What prompts me to come back to housing earlier is a recent post on the Ash Website, 10 Myths about London’s Housing Crisis.

Housing has of course emerged as an issue, if a relatively minor one, in the election campaign. And what is if not a crisis certainly a disaster is that both main parties have got the issue seriously wrong.

10 Myths…‘ was commissioned by The Guardian, but when they saw it they refused to publish it, one reason why I’m sharing it here. Both Tories and Labour have, possibly for slightly different reasons, delegated their housing policies to the developers and estate agents. The Tories because they and many of their backers are doing very nicely thank you out of the huge boom in property prices, and Labour, or at least New Labour who run many Labour local councils see selling off the council estates – realising their asset values – as a short-term solution to all the squeezes on local authority budgets.

Inhabitants of the Heygate Estate were early victims of Labour-led regeneration

What the Labour left think on the subject is something of a mystery, though possibly if they emerge stronger from the general election they may feel they can speak up for the currently down-trodden and oppressed council tenants rather than stay stum about their problems. But I wouldn’t bank on it even if we do get that unlikely Corbyn victory.

I have some reservations about Elmer’s first point, that rather than a crisis the present housing situation has been “been carefully prepared and legislated for by those who have the most to gain from it.” While he is right to suggest that it is more a scandal than a crisis, it has been one which is only partly down to deliberate plans and has been greatly assisted by unforeseen events.

When New Labour first set out their plans for regeneration they failed to envisage the extremes of inducements that developers would use to bribe councillors and councils, nor the huge gap in bargaining competency between long-practising private sector and naive public servants. Something of course that is also responsible for the huge cash crisis of the NHS – the PFI elephant that seldom seems to merit attention.

But the remaining nine points are I think straight down the line, and its an article that I commend to you – as well as to all politicians. If you really want to contribute to solving the ‘housing crisis’, you need to understand what it rally is. So should we wake up on June 9th with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister I rather hope he and his colleagues will have time to read this and take appropriate action. It it’s May again then if you are one of the millions affected  by the ‘housing crisis’ you should read it to find out why you are being shafted.

Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE
10 Myths about London’s Housing Crisis


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