Tuesday, 3 August 2010

A milllion voices for a million homes

Recently I received in the post a pamphlet from the public sector union UNISON about their campaign for affordable housing. Entitled, ‘Unlock the door! – a million voices for a million homes’ it is excellent publicity in support of a very important cause.

As UNISON West Midlands Regional Secretary Roger McKenzie points out in an accompanying letter to councillors, the National Housing Federation estimates that the number of affordable homes built this year could slump by 65%. For the many thousands of people in Birmingham languishing on housing waiting lists, this is desperate news. It is almost unbearable to have to break it to those who come to my surgery fraught with anxiety about how much longer they will have to live in overcrowded conditions that this government is going to worsen their plight.

Yet, there is a solution that could help resolve this immediate crisis. There are 62,000 privately owned empty properties in the West Midlands. As UNISON points out, ‘what is needed is a fiscal stimulus that encourages property owners to get their empty homes back into use and help for councils and housing associations to enable them to help’. For a longer term solution, we also need a house building programme. And before anyone says we can’t afford it, such a programme makes sound economic sense. The House Builders Federation estimate that for every 10,000 additional homes built an extra 15,000 direct jobs are created in the construction industry.

UNISON are campaigning for a government commitment to deliver one million affordable homes across the UK by 2015. You can support their call for more affordable housing campaign by signing their online petition here. You can also support the campaign by getting your MP to support Early Day Motion 255 calling for the government to safeguard the building of social rent and affordable homes which, so far, only a few of Birmingham's MP's have signed in support.