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Aren’t I ‘British’ because I rent? No solutions for renters from Ed Milliband.

miliband2460x276Ed Milliband’s speech at the Labour Party Conference made great claims of letting no stone be left untouched in addressing the “cost of living crisis”. Yet when it came to housing, the renters who may hold the balance in many swing seats at the next election were left feeling a little “un-British”.

Instead, he talked about the “very British dream of owning your own home” and “doubling the numbers” of first time buyers. The question, as a renter I’m left asking myself is, which is more British? The buy-to-let landlord or the tenant?

For the many tenants who’s only aspiration is a reasonably priced, safe, healthy and ideally secure place to live – the Britain Ed dreams of seems a very distant place. With Copeland in the Lake District the last place in Britain with easily affordable housing – it’s definitely a long, long way from Hackney where rents have been rising by up to 20% per year and house prices similarly.

In the current housing market, massive amounts of money flows from individuals and the public purse into the hands of corporate interests which are driving up housing costs: Property is bought up by foreign investors. Councils find themselves without the resources to take on the legal teams of property developers and so ensure that decent social and affordable housing is built.

Ed shied away from really standing up for vulnerable renters and only promised to get “Britain building again” by not letting developers sit on land. Making massive profits, often on former publicly owned land whilst not providing social nor genuinely affordable is apparently fine though!

Left unchallenged is a market model of the housing where ownership is king, and therefore unchallengeable. There was no mention of the role of social housing for the most vulnerable or for that matter tenancies. The only oblique reference was of captial investment from government – even the government becomes an investor in the housing world it seems. But then the ‘small state’ austerity dogma ensures local authorities have their hands tied by not being able to borrow.

It’s hard to imagine how a market that even the IMF has been warning is potentially out of control could ever deliver for everyone, including the most vulnerable, without a much greater form of state intervention.

Perhaps most tellingly Ed contrasted the issue of the housing crisis with “also needing public services you can rely on” – housing has nothing to do with public services apparently. It seems then that the Labour party, who’s history included the mass building of social housing post 2nd World War, has now fully abandoned state involvement in housing provision for the whims of the market.

Housing as a public service is no more. The only model considered is the ‘British dream’ of being an owner-occupier. Ed offered no answers for those very much awake to the housing crisis they live every day. A housing crisis of cramped conditions, mouldy walls, extortionate rents, rip-off lettings agents and very little hope in politicians left.

This is an immediate reaction from a Digs member in response to Ed Milliband’s Speech at Labour Party Conference 2014 – being immediate it’s not a view that’s had the time to be endorsed by the whole group.

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