Housing in the South and Isle of Wight, as elsewhere, is an election issue.

Housing is a basic human right. In order to recognise this right and provide it with a guarantee. In building their opposition, workers need to elaborate the alternative of a modern public housing system. The Government of Teresa May, wishes to duck the housing crisis as an election issue.

Rented accommodation in Britain since the war switched mainly from Private to Public. Previously Landlord Capitalism was the source but switched to being centred on Council Housing. Today it is normally Housing Associations that provide “affordable” Housing in the South and Isle of Wight, as elsewhere, is an election issue..

Housing associations are private, but are supposed to be non-profit making organisations that provide low-cost “social housing” for people in need of a home. Any trading surplus is used to maintain existing housing and to help finance new homes. Although independent they are regulated by the state and often receive public funding. Some associations now run shared ownership schemes

Housing associations borrow money to pay for new homes and improvements, so a claim on the product is transferred to finance capital through investment institutions such as banks and building societies but also through dealing in the bond market. Finance capital is in control economically and politically. Their right to private profit trumps the right to housing as it does all other rights under the rule of the financial oligarchy. The people’s right to housing is pushed aside by the oligarchs and replaced with their aim of making private profit.

After the Housing Act 1988, the proportion of the cost of new homes met by capital grant was scaled back by the Government, so borrowing became the primary source of funding for investment. Much was borrowed from banks and building societies, but after the 2008 financial crisis, caused by the sub-prime mortgage collapse, these institutions ceased to offer loans, so associations turned more to corporate bonds to raise funds.*1

In the South and the Isle of Wight is an example of the growth of Housing Association groups that operate as big businesses. They operate through the state and are in essence private corporations.

Sovereign was formed in November 2016, as the result of a merger between Spectrum Housing Group and Sovereign.

Southern Housing Group was among the largest and oldest housing associations in the UK, managing 28,000 homes for over 66,000 residents in London and the south east of England.

Southern Housing Group began as the Samuel Lewis Housing Trust in 1901 when Samuel Lewis, an English money-lender and philanthropist, died and left an endowment of £670,000 to set up a charitable trust to provide housing for the poor (equivalent to about £30 million in modern terms).

Samuel Lewis Housing Trust completed its first properties in 1910 at Liverpool Road in Islington, London. These were:

  1. Ixworth Place, Chelsea (1912)
  2. Warner Road, Camberwell (1913–1919)
  3. Vanston Place, Walham Green, Fulham (1920–22)
  4. Dalston Lane, Hackney (1923)
  5. Lisgar Terrace, Fulham (1927)
  6. Amhurst Road, Hackney (1931–37)
  7. Amhurst Park, Stamford Hill (1938–39)

It was a trust but now it developed into a larger private enterprise retaining its status but with capital growth.

In 2001 the Trust changed its name to Southern Housing Group to reflect the change of character of the organisation. Sovereign was formed in November 2016, as the result of a merger between Spectrum Housing Group and Sovereign.

Spectrum Housing Group is also known as: Spectrum Housing or Housing Association (Medina) or Medina Housing Association.

Sovereign is registered as a “social business” and one of the largest housing associations in the country. Providing 55,000 homes for around 130,000 people across the south and south west of England and the Isle of Wight. (*2)

In 1989 Newbury District Council (now West Berkshire Council) transferred its homes to a new housing association, which could borrow money to invest in homes. Originally called West Berkshire Housing Association, the name was changed to Sovereign in 1994 as the housing association grew beyond the county borders.It had Interest in 4,000 homes.

Spinnaker Housing Group brought together Western Challenge with Medina and the Foyer for the Island.It operated in the South and the Isle of Wight with interest in 10,000 homes.

Signpost Housing ran the maintenance company Signpost Services, which would eventually become Spectrum Property Care in Dorset and Devon with interest in 4,000 homes.

Founded in 1989, Twynham Housing Association joined others in 2007 to create Sovereign Housing with an interest in 2,500 homes.

In 2007 Spectrum Housing Group was formed as Spinnaker Housing Group and Signpost Housing group merge.

In 2007, The Vale Housing Association joins the group with an Interest in 5,300 homes in Oxfordshire. It had been founded in 1995.

In 2009 Kingfisher HVHS joined the group from Hampshire with an Interest in 10,200 homes.

In 2011 Sovereign Housing group amalgamated into a single legal entity called Sovereign Housing Association, now with an interest in 34,000 homes.

In 2013 Spectrum Medina, including, Foyer for the Isle of Wight, Spectrum Western Challenge and Spectrum Signpost amalgamated into Spectrum Housing Group for Southernn England, Devon, Dorset and the Isle of Wight with an interest of 17,051 homes.They became Spectrum Housing Group.

In 2016, Sovereign Housing Association and Spectrum Housing Association became Sovereign Housing Association covering South England and the Isle of Wight with an interest of 55,000 homes. (*3)

The crisis in social housing has steadily built up since the selling of Council Houses, abandonment of Council House building schemes, growth of large property magnates and oligarchs as well as the development of the corporate nature now of Housing Associations.

In the present General Election the issue of housing stands high on the agenda. The Conservative Party who control the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) were meant to tackle, but have seriously failed to provide homes to meet the dire housing shortage. Recent DCLG figures bare theis out, instead of increasing housing stock it is in fact reducing,

House building; new build dwellings, England: December Quarter 2016

On a quarterly basis, new build dwelling starts in England were estimated only at 41,620 (seasonally adjusted) in the latest quarter. This is despite much being said about the Government meeting the need by massive investment in housing. Completions were estimated at only 35,980 (seasonally adjusted), and were even 4 per cent lower than the previous quarter and 2 per cent lower than a year ago.

Annual new build dwelling starts only totalled 153,370 in the year to December 2016 a mere 5 per cent increase compared with the year to December 2015. At this dismal rate they would nowhere near meet the demand and necessity. A drastic im[provement must be made. During the same period, completions totalled 140,660, yet again a decrease of 1 per cent compared with last year.

Private enterprise new completions were 5 per cent lower. Starts, in comparison by housing associations, were only 4 percent higher compared to the last quarter and completions only 1 per cent higher.

At this rate the need to elaborate the alternative of a modern public housing system is essential, because a new level required by for a decent standard of life for all through proper housing will never be achieved by the current system. (*4)

Teresa May and the Conservatives are seeking to hide the issue of housing in the in the coming general election. It is a right, to which all parties will have to respond. The price of housing is absurd. Even in the cheapest cities, houses are around six times local earnings. Soaring prices are an issue particularly for young workers, who make up the bulk of first-time buyers. Many in high-price areas are abandoning the idea of buying and are instead renting.

High house prices and rents have resulted in rising homelessness and growing waiting lists for council houses.

Housing is important for any economy, any social system. Housing is a basic necessity for the population, just as health care, education, and social rights. The work and materials required for building and maintenance also forms an important sector of industry.

For contemporary capitalism in particular, property is a key asset, where rising prices and rents provide a safe investment for accumulated wealth, as well as an opportunity for big scores.

Meanwhile, the real issue for the ordinary population is the need for a decent quality of housing.

What is required is a modern system of public housing, in line with a modern definition of a human standard of living, as a basic right.

A modern system of housing would itself be a factor in developing the economy, part of changing the direction of the economy to a pro-social direction. It would provide work and help re balance the economy through the development of industry and provide an impetus towards lifting the economy out of its current quagmire in that new direction.

When a complete disaster or breakdown does occur then the ruling elite will deal with it in its usual way with massive state intervention to bail out themselves and pass the burden onto the people. They are doing this by manipulating the current Housing Association system, which uses its connection to the state and the private sector.

The ruling elite have a single-minded aim to extract as much private profit as they can from every corner of the socialised economy. Housing is yet another front of battle for the oligarchs to make profit and claim on the social product. It can be done through rent or mortgage interest.

A crisis for them would be if the state declared housing to be a right for all and that the oligarchs’ aim of private profit was not allowed to interfere with guaranteeing the people’s right to housing.

People’s rights should be guaranteed in practice and the aim of private profit not allowed to interfere. The situation requires the gain of political power in favour of the people, which is necessary to deprive the capitalists of the power to deprive the people of their rights.

Footnotes:

*1

Source: Hollander, Gavriel (11 November 2011). “End of the line for long-term lending”Inside Housing.

*2

Source: webpage https://www.sovereign.org.uk/

*3

Source: Sovereign website: https://www.sovereign.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/

*4

Source: Department for communities and local Government.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/593883/House_Building_Release_December_Qtr_2016.pdf

 

 

 

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