Ryeview – December 2009

How to house those that need a home

John Clark writes…

First published: December 2009 – Gazette & Herald

The 1st World War has almost gone beyond living memory. In 1919, Local Authorities were given powers to compulsory purchase, demolish and clear slums. They were replaced by new council houses. This was done to the post WWI mantra of ‘homes fit for heroes’.

Middle class suburban house owners feared the value of their properties would fall and that former slum dwellers would damage the amenities of the towns and villages.

After WWII, there was an all party agreement for the need to house the slum dwellers, the poor and the soldiers. So despite Britain being broke (worse than now) a massive council house building programme was launched.

The consensus remained until the late 1970’s when the agreement was shattered by the Tories. Labour was totally opposed. I knew Councillors who were thrown out of the Labour Party because they bought their own council house. Many of us were not opposed to the Right To Buy; however conditions were needed.

  • Discounts to be smaller so as to give the Councils larger receipts
  • Money should be used to build new council houses
  • One new council house should be built for each one sold.

Unfortunately these conditions were not applied. There were massive discounts. The government allowed only a fraction of the money to be used for rebuilding. The long term result is that we now have a much reduced public housing stock. Nationally, well over 30% of houses were Council Stock. This has fallen to a little over 20%. Ryedale at about 12% is in a weak position to provide a home for those on average, let alone low incomes.

For young working class people there is an additional problem in Ryedale. The cost of market housing is fuelled by people with big cheque books from the South of England. They buy houses as second homes and holiday cottages. The latest figure estimates there is a need for 278 affordable homes in Ryedale each year. The LDF (Local Plan) has a target of 200 houses per year or which 75 (or less) will be affordable. Each year, over 200 Ryedale families will not be housed in Ryedale. They will be driven out.

In some of the places where the council has tried to put ‘exception sites’ that are all ‘affordable’, there has been opposition from the ‘neighbours’. When all the bigger estates were built, there was opposition from those in surrounding houses. In Pickering, when Northway and Swainsea Drive estate was built there was opposition from people in the big houses in Middleton Road and Swainsea Lane. The people who moved in then, or live there now for that matter, need to live somewhere. So my questions to any in Ryedale who oppose Affordable Housing are:

  • Where would you house these people?
  • Where would you live if your house wasn’t built?
  • Were we wrong to clear the slums and then sell the council houses? Should we still have just country mansions and slums?

If we drive our young and poor out of Ryedale we will have forgotten the lessons of the last 90 years. Maybe at this time of year we ought to be working out how to house those that need a home. Maybe house values are not as important as our fellow human beings. All the best for the New Year.

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