A Fortnightly Column
The scandal of housing cut-backs
BACK IN the earls 1960s mans people became concerned about the deteriorating housing conditions in our cities. In London the term Rachmanism
v as coined to describe the extraction of exorbitant rents for sub-standard accommodation. but this was just one part of a much larger problem.
Housing action groups such as Shelter and the Catholic Housing Aid Suck() (CHAS)
did a great deal to stimulate concern about the problems of had housing and one of the results of this was the spread of These groups were aided by the 1974 Housing Act and the setting up of the Housing Corporation to help provide funding for such efforts. By 1977 the housing associations were providing a third "arm" Ii) public and private sector housing on II national scale, providing more than 311,000 homes a year.
I wo of their great values were that they were non-profitmaking and they were frequently particularly concerned with rehabilitating existing houses.
The whole process of rehabilitation was especially important because it could mean the provision of good housing in existing inner-city areas without the need for wholesale destruction of communities by slum clearance.
In the past two years, though, the housing outlook has got really bleak. The recession has meant a severe cutting hack in the private sector, and public spending cuts have literally savaged public sector housing. In 1976, 170,000 council houses were completed but this dropped to ROAM last year and will fall to a mere 31,000
ThbeYsla98me4. kind of treatment is being given to the voluntary housing associations. In the current year the Housing Corporation has suffered an 11 per cent cut-back, just at a time when building costs are escalating.
We w III be lucky to see 20,000
new homes from the voluntar■ sector this year, with far fewer next year and the year after.
The general effect of this Is that our national stock of houses will get older and older and will become more run-down. Inevitably it will be the poorer people In the Inner cities who vv ill suffer niost and the end result will he the creation of many more slums.
Of course we are told that the recession is so had that we cannot afford anything more, hut It seems to me to he the height of Idiocy to store up problems for the future when we are so manifestis able to spend money in other directions.
Last year's budget gave enormous tax relief to the wealthy yet, at the same lime, capital spending on housing is being slashed. One almost suspects that the government hopes to get away with it because the results won't become apparent for a few years.
What is crazy Is that we are being committed to spending well over £7,000 million pounds on the new Trident nuclear missile system, a stupid, irrelevant and immoral system shich will be so expensive that we will end up "defending" a nation of slums!