As we enter into the final year of this decade, Britain is facing further rises in the levels of poverty, real unemployment, homelessness and people living pay cheque to pay cheque.
Looking at the policies that successive governments have pursued regarding house building, it is clear to see that - in the main - this has been carried out in the interests of property developers and speculators rather than for workers.
In the UK, house building figures are showing a steep decline. This decade is set to see the lowest house building figures in England and Wales since the Second World War. Indeed, each decade has seen a significant decrease compared to the previous one.
The level of newly completed houses is expected to be around 130,000 per year over the last decade. The previous one saw a rate of 147,000 a year. And this was below the 150,000 a year level set in the 1990s, which in turn was almost half the level that was reached during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
The consequences of the failure to build enough homes are that more people are homeless and many more are unable to afford a home. Many young people cannot even afford to move out from their parents home given the lack of available and affordable accommodation.
Whilst the building of new homes has decreased, there has been a significant increase in Britain’s overall population. In the 1960s, the new-build construction rate for houses in England was roughly the equivalent of one home for every 14 people. Yet the ratio has now more than tripled to one home for every 43 people.
Robert Colvile, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said:
“The housing crisis is blighting the lives of a generation and robbing them of the dream of home ownership…
“The government has rightly promised to focus on this issue…ministers need to take bold action in 2019 to ensure that the 2020s become the decade in which we break this hugely damaging cycle.”
However, there is nothing to suggest that the current Tory government will be able to - or would even like to - break this cycle; their ranks are full of property speculators and landlords after all.
House building has increasingly focussed on the more profitable sectors, with a concentration on the luxury market - be it new properties or renovations. Affordable housing has been neglected. Many people have been forced towards the rental market with its high rents for substandard accommodation. People are increasingly being left at the mercy of the big landlords who are making extortionate profits out of the poorest sections of society.
What is needed is a mass construction programme of social housing to provide the necessary homes for all - of good quality and affordable.
To do this, local authorities must be given the funds and resources to carry this out. This in turn requires the nationalisation of the big construction companies, the banks, and the land, as part of a socialist housing policy.
Britain’s housing crisis is part of an ongoing crisis of the system. If left to the ‘invisible hand’ of the market, the likelihood is that the next decade will see even fewer houses being built. This is why we need a socialist Labour government.