The billionaire press barons and the right wing governments of the last three decades have enacted a huge act of fraud and dishonesty on ordinary working class people. I am talking about the management of housing stock. When I left school in 1981, living in London and buying a house was not an issue. You knew that if you got a decent job and saved up for a couple of years, you could afford to buy a house on the basis of a 10% deposit and a mortgage of three times your salary. I bought my house in 1987 for £44,000. At the time I was working for BT and I had a salary of £18,000 per annum. As I've always managed my finances sensibly, I was able to obtain a mortgage with no problem at all. I put down a £5,000 deposit and the rest was easily funded. That house is now worth in excess of £650,000. On the same equation, I would have required a salary of £220,000 per annum to buy the same place. In short, it is impossible for an ordinary person on an normal salary to buy property without major assistance. London house prices rise faster than inflation, so the situation is getting worse, not better. Who benefits? Today in the Daily Express there is a story about a former school teacher who is selling his portfolio of 900 buy to let houses. His company is worth billions. Good luck to him. The sad truth is that hoiusing is now a commodity not a place to live for many. It is a way to guarantee a pension, as the pension industry has lost the trust of many to guarantee a decent lifestyle in old age.
Even worse is the situation with social housing. A city does not work without workers on relatively low pay. These people need decent homes. Margaret Thatcher invented the right to buy. The net result of this is that a majority of former Council house stocks in places like Barnet have transferred from local authority control to gentlemen like the one in the Daily Express article. Housing that was on decent rental rates for working class people with specific requirements is now simply part of the private, unregulated housing market. Thatcher screwed up in two major ways (deliberately I beieve). Former Council tenants were given huge discounts to buy their homes. I disagree with many socialists in that I think this was right and was socially progressive. Where I disagree with Thatcher was that I believe those homes should have been sold with a clause stating that any future owner can only rent the property at the rent set by the council for council homes. This would have cut out the profiteering buy to let landlords. As former tenants got a huge discount, they should have been leegally obliged to ensure the homes were still available at resonable rents if they chose to move on. The other mistake Thatcher made was that none of the proceeds were invested in repleneshing the council housing stock.
You may wonder where the press barons come in. These Tory supporting billionaires have done a despicable thing. They have helped to pedal the lie that the issues with housing are the fault of immigrants rather than the bad policies of right wing governments. It is clear to anyone that a refugee arriving with nothing but the shirt on their back will need somewhere to live. The fact that governments have failed to manage their housing stock has meant that the migrant rather than the government has been blamed in the minds of many. As the taxation policies of right wing governments are hugely beneficial to the billionaires, they have no interest in blaming the people responsible. Rather like a bully, they seek to pick on those least able to defend themselves. To me this is immoral.
It is clear what needs to be done. The right to buy has to include a clause for future rental, to peg at council house rates and the proceeds need investing in new stock. My parents started their marriage in Council housing for the first twelve years of their marriage. This enabled them to raise a family and then as their finances improved they bought a home. Every young family should have a home available near their place of work. This is not some silly socialist pipedream, it is how you ensure your economy functions. Contrary to what you may believe, I am a Capitalist. I run my own business and I employ people. Unlike many Capitalists, I believe that social responsibility is a key element of being relatively well off. Without my staff my business is nothing. If my staff have nowhere to live, then I have no business. The same is true for every business in London. It really is time that the billionaires who produce the lie sheets we read woke up to this fact. Housing should be a right and providing it is a primary function of government. A government that fails to do this is a failed government.