May I express my great pleasure at speaking under your chairmanship for the first time ever, Ms Clark, and my gratitude for being able to talk on the supply of public or council housing, and housing association or social housing.
We have a crisis building up at the bottom end of the housing market—public housing for rent—which hits those who cannot afford to buy. That can be up to two fifths of the population, depending on the area. The cause is, effectively, 30 years of disinvestment in housing, starting under the 18-year Conservative Government with the right to buy, which substantially reduced the public housing stock. The right to buy is welcome, of course, but should be paralleled by a policy of building one home for every home sold off, to maintain the stock of public housing. There followed 13 years of under-investment by the succeeding Labour Government, who did not invest enough in housing, and who bribed and bullied councils into privatisation. The problem now is that that long period of disinvestment and under-investment is being followed by the neo-liberal policy of the coalition.
“We support social housing, we protect it and we respect social tenants’ rights.”
That, however, was the prelude to a neo-liberal policy of running down the public sector, building up the private rented sector, and cutting public spending on housing. The result is that we are now building up to a housing crisis that will severely hit those who cannot afford to buy.