Misery and waste of housing crisis

Ronnie Campbell MP'Picture by Jane Coltman
Ronnie Campbell MP'Picture by Jane Coltman

The housing crisis is out of control, yet the government is dragging its feet on an issue that affects millions.

In the north east more than 60,000 families are on social housing waiting lists, while across the UK the total tops 1.6m, and more than 123,000 homeless children are living in temporary accommodation.

Blyth has one of the region’s biggest proportionate shortages of suitable accommodation for the elderly and vulnerable young. Just think of the misery on our doorsteps. And the waste.

Council housing is the most cost-effective way of providing decent homes for these families. Instead, nearly two million lower paid households are in private rented dwellings at an annual cost to taxpayers of nearly £10bn in subsidies. This is waste on an industrial scale.

The chronic lack of social housing is worse than at any time since records began. The government’s own figures show new building of homes for rent fell from 40,000 in 2010 to 5,380 last year.

This is why I was happy to sign a cross-party letter to housing minister James Brokenshire complaining at his government’s failure to publish a long-awaited green paper on housing shortages before the parliamentary recess, a promise made after the terrible Grenfell Tower disaster.

We pointed out that an ambitious social housing programme is fundamental to solving the housing crisis.

Ministers should be taking a lead in directly commissioning social homes when the market fails, as now.

The green paper must prioritise homes let at rents that reflect the earnings of those most likely to live in them.

The country needs a target for new-build homes of 250,000 per year, plus a minimum of 30,000 empty homes brought back into use. At least 80,000 of those need to be in the social housing sector.

Anything less will be a disgrace and will continue the scandal that blights the lives of so many.