Thursday, 5 February 2009

About bloody time...

So finally Gordon Brown has taken time off from recycling old National Front slogans about British jobs for British workers to announce something worthwhile: a new council-house building programme.

About time too! The Prime Minister has promised Treasury rules that prevent councils building will be relaxed to allow councils to borrow more money for construction and to keep the proceeds from rents and sales.

Bungler Brown must move swiftly to honour this pledge, which offers hope to the 11,000 homeless households on Brighton and Hove City Council’s waiting list and to those unemployed people who can be put to work building council homes.

The length of the housing waiting list, the number of people who live in poor and overcrowded conditions, the number of people sofa-surfing and the plight of street homeless people are testament to the need for new homes in Kemp Town and Peacehaven.

Furthermore, a wealth of evidence demonstrates that building new homes puts people back to work in substantial numbers more quickly than any other major industry and the government gets back at least 50p in every pound it invests in the housing programme through benefits not paid and income tax and national insurance collected.

But building new council homes must be part of a wider package if the Neo-Labour government is to have even a hope of tackling the nation's housing crisis. There's not much point in building up the council's housing stock only to see it all promptly sold off at a discount to those tenants who can still get any credit for a mortgage: it must also stop all sales of council houses and abolish the appalling 'right to buy' that's played such a key role in getting us into this mess in the first place.

Secondly, it must ensure that all new homes meet the highest water and energy efficiency specifications going, and, finally, take serious steps to bring empty homes back into use, using compulsory purchase orders where necessary.

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