Monday, February 16, 2009

How the Conservative Party would house the homeless

It has always amazed Cranmer that the taxpayer is obliged to meet the costs of expensive hotel or bed-and-breakfast accommodation for thousands of immigrants; that the poorest of society live and sleep on the streets; that there are 1.8 million families (4.5 million people) on social housing lists, waiting for a suitable place they can call home – all while Britain’s towns and cities are replete with hundreds of thousands of empty houses languishing in various states of dilapidation and disrepair. And these areas attract crime, disorder and drugs, only fuelling the perception of dereliction and contributing to the sense of social breakdown.

The present rate of repossession is 100 homes per day. Each of these repossessions represents tragedy and trauma for all those involved. The stress endured in house moving is said to approach that of bereavement and divorce. The sad reality is that it also probably contributes to increased incidences of both. And the rates of homelessness are set to soar over the next few years as more and more people are made unemployed and families are increasingly unable to meet their mortgage payments.

In a manifest declaration of common sense, the Conservative Party has pledged to regenerate and bring up to one million of these empty homes into full use, instead of pursuing Labour’s policy of building three million new homes by 2020 – many of which are being built on greenbelt land. In his ‘Empty Property Rescue Plan’, David Cameron has pledged to ‘suspend’ rules and regulations which currently prevent housing associations and developers from rescuing such vacant properties in order to make them habitable. The Conservative Party would also ‘relax’ the statutory guidelines which govern design and standards.

But if these statutory requirements may be ‘suspended’ or ‘relaxed’, why not abolish them?

What is the point of upholding laws which were designed to protect people from living in ‘draughty’ or ‘cramped’ conditions, when the practical outworking of such laws is that many are deprived of a home altogether?

It is the task of a righteous government to repeal unrighteous law. Anything which disproportionately hits the poorest and most vulnerable of society - hindering social mobility and diminishing social justice - must be rigorously scrutinised and, if necessary, repealed.

Cranmer can think of little that is more absurd than upholding a statutory system of anally-retentive building regulations which results in 4.5 million people being made homeless.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Houses are private property - they no more belong to the community than does your car or any other possession. If I buy a house and leave it empty, that's my business. The State creates many/most social problems through its perverse policies - why should privately held assets be seized because of these inevitable outcomes?

16 February 2009 at 14:42  
Blogger Roy said...

you are opening a can of worms here, your grace. The whole of planning regulations now mitigate against decently priced homes. The retention of the green belt has become a private religion to planners and green fanatics who impose their extremely odd views on the rest of us. In the name of freedom as well as providing a source of affordable housing the retention of the green belt reeks of the most foul injustice. The high cost of housing is in the most part sustained by the high cost of land. I spend a lot of my time walking in vast areas of "setaside" land which appears to have no agricultural or any other purpose. We need the assumption of the right to build on land that we own if we are to house the millions who need decent homes. Dave Cameron is not even scratching the surface of the problem, which really requires the abolition of all planning legislation.

Meanwhile, travellers who want to "settle down" find that they can circumvent all legislation imposed on the rest of us who have already settled down simply by buying land wherever they want and then seek, and usually get, retrospective planning consent.

16 February 2009 at 14:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Before building on green belt, the govt. should sort out the road and rail problems - then we could spread ourselves out a bit. Only the govt. is responsible for that infrastructure and the former, at least, is massively well funded via car and fuel taxes. In France or Germany this would be done in a trice, in the UK our third-rate bureaucrats seem barely able to get into work, with or without the snow.

Building on green fields is a cop out. So it's sure to be the preferred solution.

16 February 2009 at 15:18  
Blogger Cranmer said...

"You are opening a can of worms here, your grace."

God forbid.

His Grace is most loath to open any potentially unpalatable cans, especially those which may be found to contain worms. It is simply not in his nature.

16 February 2009 at 15:26  
Blogger Roy said...

With due deference, Your Grace, if the Holy Roman Empire had a Diet of Worms they presumably had to open the can. I do, however, understand your reticence, culinary preferences have changed somewhat.

16 February 2009 at 16:34  
Blogger Catholic Observer said...

"Anything [...] diminishing social justice - must be rigorously scrutinised"

A volte-face?

16 February 2009 at 16:35  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Catholic Observer,

Not at all.

He would not expect you to comprehend the importance of the vernacular.

16 February 2009 at 16:42  
Blogger Theresa said...

Your Grace,

Sounds like a good idea. My only quibble with it is that it's not actually something that central government can control; it's a local authority decision and therefore central government cannot force a local council to do this. Sometimes people don't want to sell. There's a guy in our area who owns several pieces of derelict land that he has bought up. He is holding onto them until he is offered a price for them that he is satisfied with. In the meantime, one of these sites has a big ugly building that is deteriorating and has become the haunt of vandals and we can do nothing about it; he's really holding the council to ransom. This also happened with another building where one person owned the land and another owned the building, and they were at odds with each other. The council finally slapped a compulsory purchase order on it after the building was used in a tv drama as a drugs den, but it took that to shift them.
It's an interesting idea, but I think the devil's in the detail.

16 February 2009 at 16:52  
Blogger Roy said...


Planning has been effectively been taken out of democratic control. Planning officers have what is called "delegated powers" which enables them to make decisions over the heads of elected councillors. They simply do the bidding of the Great Satan and like most local government officers enjoy the power of exercising control over a hapless populace.

Please don't think that New Labour could tolerate a local authority which made decisions of its own.

16 February 2009 at 17:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its fine to say that the empty houses can be utilised by housing association for the homeless and immigrants but I'm sure it won't be you living next door to one of these empty properties.

People like me who have finally been able to buy a council house by moving to one in an area where a lot of others have also bought don't want the house next door to revert to rented accommodation because until 6 years ago I lived in rented housing for 17 years and you have a high turnover of neighbours who don't care about the property, the affect that they have on others or about the area in general. Local authorities don't do anything about badly behaved tenants until years of misery have elapsed. Unless tenancy agreements start being rigorously enforced, and they won't be, this scheme is a bad idea. A bad apple doesn't improve if you put it in with a lot of good apples, it just turns the rest bad, in other words the area goes downhill.

16 February 2009 at 21:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have little confidence that the next Conservative government will do much to fundamentally improve this country and the manner by which is treats its most hopeless.

Rome was not built in a day. Whats worse it was never substantially rebuilt. Not anywhere in Italy anyhow.


I do have confidence that a Conservative government will do many common sense things like this to improve the situation. At least in time for another future even more socialist type of government to bugger everything up again.

Atlas shrugged

17 February 2009 at 01:08  

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