Swindon AdvertiserCall to act now over housing crisis (From Swindon Advertiser)

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Call to act now over housing crisis

Swindon Advertiser: Martin Wicks Martin Wicks

A LOCAL tenants’ group has called on the council to take action over the ever-lengthening housing waiting list.

The Swindon Tenants Campaign Group has said an annual programme of council house building needs to start in an attempt to cut the list, which they say now exceeds 16,000 families.

They are also urging the council to keep rents down and not to adopt the Govern-ment’s affordable rent model, which can be up to 80 per cent of the private market.

Council leaders have said that while they support building council houses in principle, the financial reality of the situation means it is not possible.

The problem has been exasperated by the Right to Buy scheme in which tenants can buy their council homes, with 40 being bought in Swindon in the 2012/13 year alone and 7,000 overall since the scheme was introduced by Margaret Thatcher.

Martin Wicks, secretary of STCG, said: “The only way that this shortage can be addressed is by starting to build council housing once again.

“We need to campaign for a change in national housing policy, for subsidy for council house building to be reinstated.

“However, the council can begin an annual council house building programme even if not on a scale as large as we need. It can borrow money from the Government's Public Works Loan Board.

“It could also use some of the money which it has gained from the Government’s New Homes Bonus. This would at least counteract the loss of council homes from Right to Buy. For instance, if it borrowed £10 million it would enable it to build 100 or so homes.

“The town needs an increase in the number of homes with social rent. If the council introduces affordable rent we will lose council homes with council rents.

“This will push up the housing benefit bill as a result of the much higher rent levels of affordable rent.

“Driving rents up towards market levels makes no sense.”

Coun Richard Hurley (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), the Cabinet Member for Housing, has said he would like to build 1,000 council houses a year but it is not possible in the current climate.

He said: “I would love to be able to build council homes but it is a case of finding the money to do so and space.

“Unfortunately, the climate at the minute means it is not possible.

“When setting the rents of council houses you have to look at a whole range of factors.

“It would be great if they were free but once again that is not the world we live in.

“The small rise we went with this year will provide an extra £200,000 which can be used for repairs.”

Comments (13)

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7:21am Wed 12 Mar 14

ChannelX says...

Would Martin Wicks agree that if the shortage if so pressing, it might be an idea to prioritise council housing for those in most need?

After all, it would be very hypocritical for a household in receipt of dual, decent incomes to lecture everyone else about how more council housing is needed for the least well off in society.
Would Martin Wicks agree that if the shortage if so pressing, it might be an idea to prioritise council housing for those in most need? After all, it would be very hypocritical for a household in receipt of dual, decent incomes to lecture everyone else about how more council housing is needed for the least well off in society. ChannelX
  • Score: 14

8:01am Wed 12 Mar 14

Wildwestener says...

I'm not sure who Council housing is for any more. When I was young and brought up in a Council house in the Parks, it was an area where everyone worked and paid their way. People were primarily in manual or low-level office jobs.
Now it seems that if you already have a council house it's ok but the only new people who can get one are those who are in receipt of benefits of some kind. My son who is 21 and works 28 hours a week has to rent privately at full market rent, I don't see why he should subsidise those who earn more than him, or who get more in benefits to live in subsidised council housing.
I'm not sure who Council housing is for any more. When I was young and brought up in a Council house in the Parks, it was an area where everyone worked and paid their way. People were primarily in manual or low-level office jobs. Now it seems that if you already have a council house it's ok but the only new people who can get one are those who are in receipt of benefits of some kind. My son who is 21 and works 28 hours a week has to rent privately at full market rent, I don't see why he should subsidise those who earn more than him, or who get more in benefits to live in subsidised council housing. Wildwestener
  • Score: 7

8:22am Wed 12 Mar 14

house on the hill says...

ChannelX wrote:
Would Martin Wicks agree that if the shortage if so pressing, it might be an idea to prioritise council housing for those in most need?

After all, it would be very hypocritical for a household in receipt of dual, decent incomes to lecture everyone else about how more council housing is needed for the least well off in society.
Absolutely spot on. Far too many still in social housing who no longer need it and can well afford to support themselves like the rest of us have to do without the taxpayer subsidising their cheap rent. Also strange that those most vocal seem to fall into that group as well.

Social housing should be a safety net and only a permanent solution for very few who are clearly in need of ongoing support and care. And the waiting list is very misleading, around 75% of them are not in real "need" its a "just in case" situation. If there was a real problem for that number, the streets would be awash with people sleeping rough, but we know that isn't the case. Still too much of an "expectation" culture where people think the Govt (tax payer) should give them a helping hand instead of growing a pair and making their own way in life as most of us do.
[quote][p][bold]ChannelX[/bold] wrote: Would Martin Wicks agree that if the shortage if so pressing, it might be an idea to prioritise council housing for those in most need? After all, it would be very hypocritical for a household in receipt of dual, decent incomes to lecture everyone else about how more council housing is needed for the least well off in society.[/p][/quote]Absolutely spot on. Far too many still in social housing who no longer need it and can well afford to support themselves like the rest of us have to do without the taxpayer subsidising their cheap rent. Also strange that those most vocal seem to fall into that group as well. Social housing should be a safety net and only a permanent solution for very few who are clearly in need of ongoing support and care. And the waiting list is very misleading, around 75% of them are not in real "need" its a "just in case" situation. If there was a real problem for that number, the streets would be awash with people sleeping rough, but we know that isn't the case. Still too much of an "expectation" culture where people think the Govt (tax payer) should give them a helping hand instead of growing a pair and making their own way in life as most of us do. house on the hill
  • Score: 4

8:45am Wed 12 Mar 14

daddikins says...

This story seems to ignore the fact that as from April 1st the waiting list for Council home will be greatly reduced by the new Housing Allocations Policy so Martin Wicks will see less people waitingt for subsidised housing when they can afford to rent privately. A fact that Mr Wicks does not mention
This story seems to ignore the fact that as from April 1st the waiting list for Council home will be greatly reduced by the new Housing Allocations Policy so Martin Wicks will see less people waitingt for subsidised housing when they can afford to rent privately. A fact that Mr Wicks does not mention daddikins
  • Score: 6

9:27am Wed 12 Mar 14

ChannelX says...

Wildwestener wrote:
I'm not sure who Council housing is for any more. When I was young and brought up in a Council house in the Parks, it was an area where everyone worked and paid their way. People were primarily in manual or low-level office jobs.
Now it seems that if you already have a council house it's ok but the only new people who can get one are those who are in receipt of benefits of some kind. My son who is 21 and works 28 hours a week has to rent privately at full market rent, I don't see why he should subsidise those who earn more than him, or who get more in benefits to live in subsidised council housing.
Your son is experiencing the 'fairness' principle as implemented by the socialists and left-wingers.

ie, not fair at all.

As you say, your son is working to support many couples who have retired on nice pensions (after paying virtually no rent all their lives) and who will happily sit in their council houses while your son works in order to just about cover his private property monthly rent.

It's when those same people start lambasting the council, motivated purely by political agendas, under the pretence of 'caring' about those on low incomes that it leaves an even more unpleasant taste in the mouth.

These are definitely not 'nice' people.
[quote][p][bold]Wildwestener[/bold] wrote: I'm not sure who Council housing is for any more. When I was young and brought up in a Council house in the Parks, it was an area where everyone worked and paid their way. People were primarily in manual or low-level office jobs. Now it seems that if you already have a council house it's ok but the only new people who can get one are those who are in receipt of benefits of some kind. My son who is 21 and works 28 hours a week has to rent privately at full market rent, I don't see why he should subsidise those who earn more than him, or who get more in benefits to live in subsidised council housing.[/p][/quote]Your son is experiencing the 'fairness' principle as implemented by the socialists and left-wingers. ie, not fair at all. As you say, your son is working to support many couples who have retired on nice pensions (after paying virtually no rent all their lives) and who will happily sit in their council houses while your son works in order to just about cover his private property monthly rent. It's when those same people start lambasting the council, motivated purely by political agendas, under the pretence of 'caring' about those on low incomes that it leaves an even more unpleasant taste in the mouth. These are definitely not 'nice' people. ChannelX
  • Score: 5

10:10am Wed 12 Mar 14

beach1e says...

this shows what is wrong with our benefits system, those that cant be bothered get everything given to them whereas those that make an effort get little or nothing. Those that wont accept cuts when times are bad are generally those who have given nothing back to society. If you are in receipt of benefits or cheap housing you should have to be working or doing something useful that benefits society, not sitting on your lazy bottom doing nothing except for allowing everyone else to pay for you and your family.I don't understand how these people who do nothing have so little respect and pride in themselves.
this shows what is wrong with our benefits system, those that cant be bothered get everything given to them whereas those that make an effort get little or nothing. Those that wont accept cuts when times are bad are generally those who have given nothing back to society. If you are in receipt of benefits or cheap housing you should have to be working or doing something useful that benefits society, not sitting on your lazy bottom doing nothing except for allowing everyone else to pay for you and your family.I don't understand how these people who do nothing have so little respect and pride in themselves. beach1e
  • Score: 6

11:34am Wed 12 Mar 14

A.Baron-Cohen says...

Local housing should be available for no more than 3-6months and only for the most urgent cases.
This is a benefit that must be cut, reduced, chopped at any costs, it is the root problem of Welfare.
Local housing should be available for no more than 3-6months and only for the most urgent cases. This is a benefit that must be cut, reduced, chopped at any costs, it is the root problem of Welfare. A.Baron-Cohen
  • Score: 0

12:17pm Wed 12 Mar 14

house on the hill says...

beach1e wrote:
this shows what is wrong with our benefits system, those that cant be bothered get everything given to them whereas those that make an effort get little or nothing. Those that wont accept cuts when times are bad are generally those who have given nothing back to society. If you are in receipt of benefits or cheap housing you should have to be working or doing something useful that benefits society, not sitting on your lazy bottom doing nothing except for allowing everyone else to pay for you and your family.I don't understand how these people who do nothing have so little respect and pride in themselves.
Go and work in social housing for a while and that will really open your eyes to what goes on and the "attitudes" of some tenants and what they "expect" to be given for dong nothing. And why is having 6 kids by various fathers rewarded by endless benefits and bigger houses and an old age pension when you have chosen to contribute nothing? And before you ask, no I don't have the answer, but endlessly living off hard working taxpayers isn't the answer.
[quote][p][bold]beach1e[/bold] wrote: this shows what is wrong with our benefits system, those that cant be bothered get everything given to them whereas those that make an effort get little or nothing. Those that wont accept cuts when times are bad are generally those who have given nothing back to society. If you are in receipt of benefits or cheap housing you should have to be working or doing something useful that benefits society, not sitting on your lazy bottom doing nothing except for allowing everyone else to pay for you and your family.I don't understand how these people who do nothing have so little respect and pride in themselves.[/p][/quote]Go and work in social housing for a while and that will really open your eyes to what goes on and the "attitudes" of some tenants and what they "expect" to be given for dong nothing. And why is having 6 kids by various fathers rewarded by endless benefits and bigger houses and an old age pension when you have chosen to contribute nothing? And before you ask, no I don't have the answer, but endlessly living off hard working taxpayers isn't the answer. house on the hill
  • Score: 10

12:25pm Wed 12 Mar 14

house on the hill says...

Wildwestener wrote:
I'm not sure who Council housing is for any more. When I was young and brought up in a Council house in the Parks, it was an area where everyone worked and paid their way. People were primarily in manual or low-level office jobs.
Now it seems that if you already have a council house it's ok but the only new people who can get one are those who are in receipt of benefits of some kind. My son who is 21 and works 28 hours a week has to rent privately at full market rent, I don't see why he should subsidise those who earn more than him, or who get more in benefits to live in subsidised council housing.
I think that is a valid question, who exactly should qualify. should it be the "low paid" and why exactly are they low paid? For example, one couple decide to have 3 kids, so have less disposable income and ability to work longer hours and another couple decide not to have kids and work extra hours or extra jobs. Under the current welfare system, the ones with kids will probably get help, but those who have chosen not to wont and will also be helping to cover the costs of the other family. Is that really fair? Should how you choose to live your life dictate how much benefit you receive? Where is the incentive to be responsible and respectful of others and if all were like the first family, the country would just collapse financially.

One thing is clear, the current system isn't right or fair or financially sustainable, so changes will either be made voluntarily or be forced upon us as the welfare state threatens to bankrupt the country. What is fair and right as well as being affordable in the long term is what we have to find.
[quote][p][bold]Wildwestener[/bold] wrote: I'm not sure who Council housing is for any more. When I was young and brought up in a Council house in the Parks, it was an area where everyone worked and paid their way. People were primarily in manual or low-level office jobs. Now it seems that if you already have a council house it's ok but the only new people who can get one are those who are in receipt of benefits of some kind. My son who is 21 and works 28 hours a week has to rent privately at full market rent, I don't see why he should subsidise those who earn more than him, or who get more in benefits to live in subsidised council housing.[/p][/quote]I think that is a valid question, who exactly should qualify. should it be the "low paid" and why exactly are they low paid? For example, one couple decide to have 3 kids, so have less disposable income and ability to work longer hours and another couple decide not to have kids and work extra hours or extra jobs. Under the current welfare system, the ones with kids will probably get help, but those who have chosen not to wont and will also be helping to cover the costs of the other family. Is that really fair? Should how you choose to live your life dictate how much benefit you receive? Where is the incentive to be responsible and respectful of others and if all were like the first family, the country would just collapse financially. One thing is clear, the current system isn't right or fair or financially sustainable, so changes will either be made voluntarily or be forced upon us as the welfare state threatens to bankrupt the country. What is fair and right as well as being affordable in the long term is what we have to find. house on the hill
  • Score: 6

2:05pm Wed 12 Mar 14

Wildwestener says...

Personal responsibility. So few seem to have it nowadays sadly
Personal responsibility. So few seem to have it nowadays sadly Wildwestener
  • Score: 5

2:05pm Wed 12 Mar 14

Russell Holland says...

It is with regret that I point out that the reason why the Council is not in a position to borrow significantly more to invest in the housing stock is because the Council borrowed £138.6million to pay to the central government as part of keeping housing under Council control. That is why we went to ballot. Rent increases at inflation levels only also prohibit higher levels of investment. The financial position will ultimately equalise but only after 10-15 years.
It is with regret that I point out that the reason why the Council is not in a position to borrow significantly more to invest in the housing stock is because the Council borrowed £138.6million to pay to the central government as part of keeping housing under Council control. That is why we went to ballot. Rent increases at inflation levels only also prohibit higher levels of investment. The financial position will ultimately equalise but only after 10-15 years. Russell Holland
  • Score: 6

9:51pm Wed 12 Mar 14

house on the hill says...

Russell Holland wrote:
It is with regret that I point out that the reason why the Council is not in a position to borrow significantly more to invest in the housing stock is because the Council borrowed £138.6million to pay to the central government as part of keeping housing under Council control. That is why we went to ballot. Rent increases at inflation levels only also prohibit higher levels of investment. The financial position will ultimately equalise but only after 10-15 years.
Well said and one of the main reasons why I questioned why the vote was only put to current tenants when the decision would affect future tenants for years to come. I think the council got cocky and expected a yes vote so they could blame the tenants if they moaned afterwards and caught a cold on it. The other side is why do you allow those who clearly no longer qualify for taxpayer subsidised housing still get it. You don't pay child benefit for life. When it is deemed people no linger need it, it is stopped as social housing should be too. There are thousands in Swindon who would love to pay £90 a week for a 3 bed house even though they worked and earned good money. You can blame the tenants in part for taking on the debt but the whole grossly unfair and unjust system is at fault too.
[quote][p][bold]Russell Holland[/bold] wrote: It is with regret that I point out that the reason why the Council is not in a position to borrow significantly more to invest in the housing stock is because the Council borrowed £138.6million to pay to the central government as part of keeping housing under Council control. That is why we went to ballot. Rent increases at inflation levels only also prohibit higher levels of investment. The financial position will ultimately equalise but only after 10-15 years.[/p][/quote]Well said and one of the main reasons why I questioned why the vote was only put to current tenants when the decision would affect future tenants for years to come. I think the council got cocky and expected a yes vote so they could blame the tenants if they moaned afterwards and caught a cold on it. The other side is why do you allow those who clearly no longer qualify for taxpayer subsidised housing still get it. You don't pay child benefit for life. When it is deemed people no linger need it, it is stopped as social housing should be too. There are thousands in Swindon who would love to pay £90 a week for a 3 bed house even though they worked and earned good money. You can blame the tenants in part for taking on the debt but the whole grossly unfair and unjust system is at fault too. house on the hill
  • Score: 0

9:06am Thu 13 Mar 14

Russell Holland says...

House - the legal position was that current tenants had a vote we did not have a choice over that. We went to ballot because of the clear financial advantages of transfer and felt tenants shoudl have that option. I don't blame tenants at all because I respect the choice they made. I am frustrated when those who most severely criticised the Council and campaigned against transfer in the most emotive and sometimes misleading terms now complain about the impact of staying with the Council. The new allocations policy has fixed term tenancies and national legislation is tending towards having housing being more needs based.

That said, even with the debt, self financing is better than the old system but the effect of the debt is basically like press pause on the benefits of self financing for at least 10 years.

I remember I was at a Sheltered Housing meeting after the ballot and one of the residents asked if the £20million improvements were still going ahead. I explained to her that they were not and when they asked when they were going to be done, I said that level of investment may happen by the time I was ready to move in. Sad but true.
House - the legal position was that current tenants had a vote we did not have a choice over that. We went to ballot because of the clear financial advantages of transfer and felt tenants shoudl have that option. I don't blame tenants at all because I respect the choice they made. I am frustrated when those who most severely criticised the Council and campaigned against transfer in the most emotive and sometimes misleading terms now complain about the impact of staying with the Council. The new allocations policy has fixed term tenancies and national legislation is tending towards having housing being more needs based. That said, even with the debt, self financing is better than the old system but the effect of the debt is basically like press pause on the benefits of self financing for at least 10 years. I remember I was at a Sheltered Housing meeting after the ballot and one of the residents asked if the £20million improvements were still going ahead. I explained to her that they were not and when they asked when they were going to be done, I said that level of investment may happen by the time I was ready to move in. Sad but true. Russell Holland
  • Score: 0

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