No solution to the housing crisis without council house building

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Media Release February 13th 2017

No solution to the housing crisis without council house building

The government’s Housing White Paper, “Fixing our broken housing market”, is an implicit recognition of the failure of 6 years of coalition and Tory government housing policy. Talk of a “home owning democracy” has been abandoned. However, the problem will not be resolved by attempting to make ‘the market work for everyone’. As the Financial Times recently recognised in an Editorial, it is against the interests of the big builders to build ‘affordable homes’ for rent.

The fact is that private developers, left to their own devices, will not build enough to meet demand, especially when the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. It is not in their interest to do so, since the result would be lower house prices and land values, eroding their profitability”. More

Why Labour should write-off the fictional Council housing ‘debt’


In order to stop the rise in Housing Benefit payments the government has imposed on local authorities which still own their Council housing stock, a 1% cut in tenants’ rent, for four years, starting in April of this year. By this and other policies Council housing is being seriously under-funded. In order to understand the extent of the problem and what to do about it it’s necessary to appreciate how Council housing is financed under the system known as ‘self-financing’.


In April 2012 a new Council Housing finance system, ‘self-financing’, was introduced. The system had been designed by the New Labour government just before it lost the 2010 General Election and was implemented by the coalition government. Housing Minister Grant Shapps said that the new system would “give Councils the resources they need to manage their own housing stock for the longer term – correcting decades of under-funding”. In fact under-funding was not corrected but built into the new system (see Appendix). Most Councils did have more money than they had under the previous system because what was known as a ‘negative subsidy’ was ended. In 2005 the Audit Commission reported that 82% of local authorities were subject to ‘negative subsidy’, meaning they received no government subsidy and had to make a payment to central government from their rent income. According to the Audit Commission at the time this comprised some £630 million a year. Whilst some of this was redistributed to other Councils, in the four years from 2008 tenants’ rents subsidised the Treasury to the tune of almost £1.5 billion1. It was predicted that if the old system, the ‘housing subsidy system’, continued, then eventually all local authorities would suffer from ‘negative subsidy’, largely as a result of year on year rent increases above the level of inflation.

(Read on below or download a PDF here chdebtwriteoff )

What Future for Council Housing?

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What future for Council Housing?

Council housing and the housing crisis

A book by Martin Wicks

Everybody knows there is a housing crisis. However, it is usually written about by academics or professionals who work in the housing sector. Tenant voices are rarely heard. What Future for Council Housing? is written by a Council tenant and reflects the work and ideas of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group which has successfully resisted the sell-off of our homes; managed to secure more money for their maintenance; and challenged the dominant policies responsible for the crisis. (Download a PDF here whatfuture or read on below) More

Tackling Swindon’s Housing Crisis


Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Media Release March 9th 2014 

Swindon Housing Strategy: a Council house building programme is needed to tackle the housing crisis

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group has produced a discussion document analysing Swindon’s housing crisis and how it can be tackled. It’s a response to the “Housing Market Support” document voted through by the Council last year. Swindon Borough Council will soon open up a consultation on updating its housing strategy. STCG has put forward a series of practical proposals. Read or dowload the document here stcghousingsubmission

According to the Council’s own estimate each year the town builds 800 too few “affordable homes”. That is, every year the shortage increases. However, its outline proposals in the “Housing Market Support” document fail to put forward proposals to tackle this shortage and provide genuinely affordable homes for rent. Swindon Tenants Campaign Group is proposing that the Council should

  • Launch an annual Council house building programme, borrowing money from the Public Works Loan Board, which offers cheaper interest rates than the market, and using some of the money from the ‘New Homes Bonus’.
  • Maintain Council rents for all Council homes rather than introducing the government’s “Affordable rent model” (up to 80% of market rates).
  • Provide additional resources to enable Council staff to try to improve the quality of housing in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) in which over 30,000 people now live.
  • Examine introducing licensing for all Houses in Multiple Occupation and selective licensing of other rented accommodation in the town.
  • Campaign for a change in housing policy at the national level: for national subsidy for Council house building, and for ending to ‘Right to Buy’ which is responsible for the loss of badly needed homes from the Council stock.  More

2014: Defending Council housing and campaigning for an annual Council house building programme

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A new year’s message from Swindon Tenants Campaign Group

So what’s ahead in 2014 on the housing front in Swindon? Firstly, around 7,500 individuals and families who are currently on Band C of the Council’s housing waiting list will be receiving a letter telling them that they will be taken off the list since the Council is closing down Band C. How do they justify doing this? The Lead Member responsible for housing said that most of the people on the list shouldn’t be on there, they could “probably” afford to buy a house. When challenged as to what evidence he had, he was forced to admit that he had none. Why would people who could afford to buy a house put their name down on the list when they know of the acute shortage of homes available?

The Housing director justified the closure of Band C by saying that it was “more honest” to tell these people that they had no chance of a Council home. Of course, neither argument addresses the key question, the need to build more Council housing. That’s the way to cut the waiting list rather than closing down Band C and pretending that these people have no housing need. Many of them might have acceptable accommodation but whether they can easily afford the very high private sector rents is another matter altogether.  More

Mobilising prejudice against Council housing and tenants for electoral advantage


The purpose of the comments by Conservative Councillors in Covingham and Dorcan (‘Anger over claims about new homes in Covingham’) in relation to the possibility of Council houses being built on their doorstep, is clear. The ‘threat’ of such building was used for electoral advantage, as a stick to beat the Labour Councillor recently elected in the area. The threat of another ‘Penhill’ was not just derogatory to that estate, it was short-hand for denigrating Council housing as such. Mr Heenan and Co  were seeking to mobilise anti-Council housing and anti-Council tenant prejudice for electoral advantage. You wouldn’t want Council housing near you would you? is the message.  More

Time for a Council house building programme


This is a letter to the Swindon Advertiser

Time for a Council house building programme

The latest Swindon Housing list statistics for April 2013 show a continuation of the unrelenting rise in household numbers on it. There was an increase of 575 households in just three months from January to April, from 15,093 to 15,688. The priority households increased from 7,010 to 7,292. This is no surprise. According to the Council’s own estimate each year there are 800 too few “affordable homes” built in Swindon. House prices remain too high for many people to buy. The average price is 6.4 times the average income in the town.

Meanwhile the high private rented sector (PRS) rents mean that more families struggle to make ends meet. This is reflected in the rise of the number of people in the PRS claiming Housing Benefit. Over the 4 years to last November, it rose steeply from 2,660 to 4,660. Between the two censuses in 2001 and 2011, PRS households increased from  less than 6,000 to over 14,000. The number of people living in PRS nearly tripled to over 32,000. This is the result of inflated house prices and/or deposits being beyond their reach, and the acute shortage of ‘social housing’.  More

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