THE scale of the housing crisis today is revealed in a report issued by the Local Government Authority (LGA) which exposes the scandal that the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has soared by 40% in the past three years.
Councils across England are putting 120,540 children with their families in so-called temporary shelter, an increase of 32,650 more children than in 2014. Martin Tett, the LGA’s Housing spokesman, said: ‘When councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of pupils every month, and the net cost for councils of funding for temporary accommodation has tripled in the last three years, it’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families.’
The whole idea that when councils place families in temporary accommodation it is just some inconvenient interlude for them in the wait for permanent housing is a fiction. With no affordable houses being built there is simply nowhere for families made homeless to go, leaving them in the limbo of temporary shelter not just for months but for years.
Kate Webb, head of policy and research for the housing charity Shelter, has pointed out that although the government have put a 6-week limit on families with children staying in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation in practice this is routinely ignored by councils and that today there is no limit on the length of time families are forced to stay.
The Labour shadow housing minister, John Healey, said Tory ministers should ‘hang their heads in shame over the shocking figures’. He placed the blame squarely on the Tories saying: ‘This is the direct result of decisions made by Conservative ministers over the last seven years – the lowest number of affordable homes for 24 years, no protection for private renters, and big cuts to charity and council budgets.’
In fact it goes back much further, to the drive by the Thatcher government in 1980 to destroy decent council housing and affordable rents through imposing the ‘right-to-buy’ policy. This was aimed squarely at smashing the reforms of the post-war Labour government which, under the pressure from a working class that refused to go back to the poverty and homelessness of previous generations, embarked on a massive programme of council house building.
This was always hated by the capitalist class which saw that the land they always believed they owned by divine right, could not return the massive profits they craved while the buildings on them were occupied by workers paying controlled rents. Council housing is now being destroyed by the Tories.
Today in London entire council blocks are crushed to rubble in order for the property speculators to build their luxury apartments selling for millions or commanding rents of thousands of pounds a week. As for the working class cleansed by this destruction, they are moved out with thousands facing a lifetime of ‘temporary’ shelter.
After Grenfell Tower we know that those blocks that have so far escaped the bulldozers, are treated as deregulated eyesores on which as little money as possible is spent regardless of the threat to, and cost in human life when the inevitable tragedy happens.
When the post-war Labour governments embarked on building millions of council houses across the country many thought that this meant that the housing crisis for workers was over for good. The reality is that council housing is now being destroyed, creating a housing crisis that has reached the point where revolutionary action is called for.
There can be no solution to this crisis under the capitalist system that sees housing not as a basic human right but as a commodity to be exploited for the biggest profit possible with the working class seen as completely disposable.
There can be only one real solution and that is to put an end to capitalism itself. This means forcing the TUC to call a general strike to kick out the Tories and advance to a workers government and socialism. A socialist government will nationalise the building industry along with the banks and the land. A workers government will embark on a massive programme of building affordable, decent and safe housing for all. This is the only way forward!