Friday, 24 July 2009

The Future for Housing

Council houses at Hackenthorpe, South YorkshireImage via Wikipedia

Me and my wife tried to get a council house more than 20 years ago but were basically told that we haven't a chance in hell. So we had to purchase in a completely new area as where we lived is considered an affluent area and house prices reflected this. Basically even with both working we couldn't afford anything. We eventually moved about 18 miles away leaving family, friends and our roots.

Move forward a couple of years and we considered moving house. A visit to a mortgage broker exposed us to what I then saw as an unsustainable aspect of the housing market. House prices were high and the ability for many to meet the lenders requirements was becoming more difficult. The lenders couldn't reduce their criteria any more than they had so they changed tack. We were offered what was called a 'self-certificated' mortgage. The upshot is that you lie through your teeth about how much you earn and then you lie lie about your ability to repay.

It was a way to artificially sustain the climb in house prices, and was a portent of the crisis to come.

Anyways, this leads to my thoughts about housing and what I'd like to see done.

For me housing is a basic human necessity and right. It's a fundamental support for family and community cohesion. It's too basic a need and too special to be treated as a commodity or a way of 'making money' and definitely shouldn't have anything to do with the financial spivs and parasites. As such I think the profit motive associated with housing needs to be removed. But how?

Some thoughts:
  • remove the profit aspect through fiscal means, taxation etc
  • remove the house from the personal estate
  • bring all housing under 'social' control
  • allowing owners to transfer their house to the council and then rented back to them at sustainable rates
  • a massive drive in social housing construction to reduce the price of private property
Just pie in the sky thinking I expect. But it would be good to aim for something like this.



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6 comments:

  1. Capitalism is the case of all social problems that afflict and affect workers. Under capitalism the workers are, in the strictest sense. Poor, that is they lack the means to afford the best that is available. People often talk of there being a housing problem, but there is no such problem. There is no reason why enough good houses for all should not be built. The materials exist; so do the building workers and the architects.

    What then stands in the way?

    The simple fact is that there is not a market for good houses since most people like you and your wife twenty years ago; still cannot afford to pay for them, and never will be because of the restrictions of the wages system. So what is called the housing problem is really but an aspect of the poverty problem or, what is the same thing – since it is the other side of the coin – the class monopoly of the means of production.

    So to solve the problem in regard to the housing question, I would suggest the answer is the same as to all the problems that are an affront to all of humanity and caused by capitalism. We must abolish the capitalist system in its entirety and replace it with Socialism. This will involve a social revolution involving a “majority” of the world’s population of workers who understand what socialism is; changing the basis of society from class to common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution. When society owns and democratically controls the means of life then men and women can begin to organise production to satisfy their needs. Production solely for use can take the place of the ant-social principle of production for profit. Exploitation will be ended and a world of abundance made possible.

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  2. "People often talk of there being a housing problem, but there is no such problem. There is no reason why enough good houses for all should not be built. The materials exist; so do the building workers and the architects."

    Ta for the comment, can't argue with that!

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  3. For s start, just bring back the building societies.

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  4. I think that I can see were Steve is coming from or a least I think I do. However the problem is that the Banks have a nasty habit of taking over the building societies: take my own as a case example. Abbey, officially Abbey National plc, is a United Kingdom-based bank and former building society that is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Grupo Santander of Spain and since 2004. Abbey will be rebranded as Santander by the end of 2010 in line with the group's other UK subsidiaries, and former building society's Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley. I became a customer of Abbey National about ten years ago when it was well on its way to being transformed from being what millions knew and perceive as a building society to that of a bank. In my case, I became a customer because without a bank account its almost imposable to get a job even in these days, this has to be another example of how the system has a hold on our lives and forces compliance, this never use to be the case I still remember the time when I was given an envelope or pay packet.

    Anyhow, Wikipedia has good information about building society's and their origins and beginnings as financial institution, owned by its members, that offered banking and other financial services, but especially mortgage lending. Building society first arose in the 19th century, in the United Kingdom, from co-operative savings groups. In the UK today building societies actively compete with banks for most personal banking services, especially mortgage lending and deposit accounts. In their heyday, like the co-operative food store there were hundreds of building societies: just about every town in the country had a building society named after that town. Over succeeding decades the number of societies has decreased, as various societies merged to form larger ones, often renaming in the process, and other societies opted for demutualisation followed by - in the great majority of cases - eventual takeover by a listed bank. Most of the existing larger building societies are the end result of the mergers of many smaller societies.

    My own bank Abbey started its life as the Abbey Road & St John's Wood Permanent Benefit Building Society founded in 1874, based in a Baptist church on Abbey Road in Kilburn. The society became the Abbey National Building Society following the merger of the Abbey Road Building Society with the National Building Society in 1944. So we can clearly see the good intentions that lay behind the emergence of Building Society's then, to help and assist people into securing there own homes and cheaply.

    The problem as I see it, is when working people resolve and find a way to (a) put a roof over their own heads and (b) feed and provide relatively cheap provisions, capitalism works overtime to undermine this well intended conception because their profits are put at risk and that will not do! This has resulted in the failure in time of both the building society and co-operative movement as a vehicle for change. May I apologise at this point for the length of my post, and having done that say in conclusion it's worthwhile reminding ourselves that the cost of a home even with the recent drop in prices remains expensive and simply out of the reach of many working people for now and in the foreseeable future - given that adequate housing like good wholesome food is a basic requirement to sustain life, then it follows that a system that denies millions the necessity's of life; is repugnant and only a movement for socialism will end the wasteful, fearsome, insecure world we know today.

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  5. We do have building societies Steve, but unfortunately the way the merket operates is dictated by the banks so there's no visible benefit for using them specifically.

    Jim, capitalism will always seek to turn a buck from any necessity, asset or interaction. For some things I couldn't really care less, if a bumper sticker costs £1 or £2 so be it, but I do feel that society needs to ring-fence certain things to keep the vultures and speculators away. For me it's housing, health, defence, food production and distribution, education, transportation, port and custom services, prisons, council services, government and treasury, exchange rates, interest rates, provision of gainful employment and a few other bits and pieces.

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  6. Hi Chris,

    Capitalism is really a very nasty virus; from the workhouse to the factory. So rather than ring-fencing it, that’s putting it into some kind of isolation and quarantine!
    It needs deletion; I would humbly suggest, and then a new society can then be built that involves everyone obtaining freely without any form of exchange, in short that which is necessary to set us all free to live our lives to the full!

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Keep it clean!