The Struggle for Social Housing

Stuart Weir, 2015 Nov 27
Affordable housing is more important than affordable buying.
Affordable housing is more important than ‘profitable’ ownership.

Read the report here: Cambridge’s Struggle for Social Housing, John Marais 2015

In our first Fairness Review, Cambridge: Wealth and Want, earlier in the year, we wrote that “house prices and rents in Cambridge are beyond the means of the majority of local people. They are rising faster in the city than earnings. There is a desperate need for genuinely affordable homes for ownership or rent. But there is no end in sight to the chronic and divisive housing crisis.”

John Marais has now written a devastating review of Cambridge City Council’s attempts to expand the badly-needed social housing stock and the destructive interference of this government. His review also take in the damage that the government will do to housing for rent in the area with the misguided decision to force housing associations to sell social homes to their tenants at a huge discount – and then to force the City to sell off higher value rented homes to pay off housing associations for the loss.

John writes that the loss of social housing nationwide is especially damaging in Cambridge, caught as the city is in the web of the global London housing market, swelled by a glut of buyers from around the world who are buying houses and flats for their investment value.

“The government’s neo-liberal principles rule out intervening to mitigate the shocking consequences of the rule of the private market (by for example re-introducing rent controls on privately-rented homes) at the same time as its austerity measures (notably the “benefit cap” which reduces the housing benefits for families and individuals who can’t afford the full rent) force local people out of renting homes in the city.

“The pressures of Cambridge’s dynamic growth are also taking their toll. In 1979, Cambridge’s population was 87,000. Now with the population at 124,000 people, our council housing stock has been halved to 7,000, and by 2020 is predicted to be reduced further to a meagre 5,000 – with the population still rising.

“These are the statistics of madness. Council housing cannot now fulfil its role as a partner to ownership in providing homes; it is reduced to provision almost wholly for the desperately poor and disadvantaged. Its wider part in the city’s – and nation’s – social fabric is at an end.” John is a very active tenant representative on the City’s housing committee and on the national campaign, Defend Council Housing.

Read the report here: Cambridge’s Struggle for Social Housing, John Marais 2015