Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Affordable Oxford’s Husting

 The Oxford Housing Crisis

 From Affordable Oxford’s invitation letter

“Over the last five years, Oxford has become the least affordable city in the UK for housing. Between 2013 and 2014 alone, house prices rose by £20,000, and no new affordable houses were built in 2014. Oxford residents on a low income spend 48% of their pre-tax income to live in private rented accommodation. Outside of LondonOxford is the most expensive place to privately rent in the country. 3,300 households are on a waiting list for temporary accommodation, with Oxford City Council providing temporary accommodation for just 118 households”.

Thank you for coming along, and thanks also to the organisers.

The housing crisis is a messy combination of high demand for homes from people, a shortage of new houses being built, and an insufficient amount of affordable or social housing. This wide gap between what’s needed and what’s available shows that the housing market doesn’t work. Houses are built to make money for developers and landowners, not because people need them. Developers aim to maximise their profits by building the kind of housing which is likely to bring in the best returns. This will tend to be houses for private sale. Social housing managed by councils and housing associations is a less attractive investment. As a result, the few homes which are being built will only be affordable to a few people. The housing shortage actually benefits the economy, in a weird way. Because demand for new houses is high, some people are prepared to pay a lot, so developers can get away with charging higher prices for new homes. Consequently, house prices have rocketed, and developers and mortgage lenders have raked in the profits.

Thousands of people locally on medium and lower incomes have been priced out of the market, and end up unable to move to better housing. Those with lower incomes, or who have debts, have to rely on the often-unreliable end of the private sector or under-funded social housing. For homeless people, any type of long-term housing might be hard to find. The housing market shows how the system doesn’t work in our interests.

Reforms have to fit in with how the system runs. Any changes to legislation or reallocation of public funds only last as long as they’re financially viable. Tinkering with the system hasn’t made it work in the interests of the vast majority. So, the economic and political system itself needs to be changed. We need to go from a society where land and resources are owned by a tiny minority to one where they are owned by everyone in common. Houses would be built, goods would be produced and services would be run directly because people need and want them. The financial market would no longer be there, rationing and restricting who gets what. Work would be co-operative and voluntary, without the stresses which come from struggling without enough resources or staff. The only way such a society could be organised is democratically, without leaders. And the only way that society could be reached is democratically, if the majority worldwide wanted it and worked for it. A vote for the Socialist Party is a vote in favour of this society.


Extending right to buy

How many housing association tenants will actually benefit from this? Will this scheme lead to more social housing being built?

Housing for disabled people

Many people with reduced mobility are living in housing not suitable for their needs, especially in the rented sector. Private landlords might be reluctant to make their properties accessible if this costs them too much money. To qualify for social services funding for disabled adaptations, you need to have severely reduced capabilities. Presumably, if social services departments had more staff and resources, they would be able to support more people, and the criteria for accessing them could be relaxed. But, the state and other organisations will always aim to keep their costs low by running services at a minimum. This is an example of how money rations what we can have.

This impacts on other areas such as bed-blocking in hospitals.

Homelessness

Single people, unless they’re extremely vulnerable, don’t qualify for statutory assistance.

Local connection policies are a way of restricting services. In Oxford, rough sleepers without a local connection are offered support to return.

Run by Oxford Homeless Pathways (clients aged 22+):
  • O’Hanlon House – 56-bed hostel
  • Julian Housing – 100 units of supported accommodation
  • Luther Street Medical Centre – for homeless people
One Foot Forward – hostel for people 16 - 22
No Second Night Out – supports rough sleepers, pending assessment
Gatehouse: evening drop-in centre
Various supported accommodation schemes.

Planning

What drives planning is what’s financially viable or likely to be profitable, rather than need and sustainability.

Decisions about planning developments are made by distant, unaccountable leaders. Most of us have very little influence in such important decisions.

If land and resources were owned by the whole community and run democratically, then everyone could have input into planning developments. Decisions could be made by elected representatives or by direct democracy.

Environment

Abandoned homes aren’t renovated because of the cost, not because of a lack of know-how or resources.

The green belt will get built on if doing this is cheaper than clearing brownfield sites.

Socialist alternative

Society is structured to protect the interests of the tiny minority who own most wealth. I’m referring here to the richest 5% or so worldwide because they have the most economic power. For the remaining 95% of us, the economic system itself works against our best interests.

The Socialist Party believes we should address the cause of society’s problems rather than trying to treat each problem within the system.

Free access


Co-operative, voluntary work. More fulfilling.

The only way a socialist society could be organised is democratically, and not the extremely limited kind of democracy which only extends to voting in some of our leaders every few years. And the only way that such a fundamental change could be reached is through extending democracy across society.
 The environment could be managed more sustainably in a socialist society. In our current society, environmental damage usually occurs because the cheapest methods or resources have been used. Protecting financial interests is seen as more important than protecting the environment. A socialist society wouldn’t have financial interests to influence how our natural resources are used. As our natural resources would be owned and managed in common, it would be in everyone’s best interests to use them in the most sustainable way.

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