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Britain's Housing Is Bust

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It fails on affordability, security of tenure, availability and quality, energy efficiency, appropriate size and location.

Because social housing - having been handed to unaccountable private landlords - is in such short supply, it is now available only to those in the most dire, desperate need. Every other tenant is in the hands of unregulated rental agents who are seemingly infinitely creative in their ability to dream up new charges.

More than that, even estate agents are now expressing fears about the housing price bubble, particularly in London. Though deliberately fuelled by the Coalition's 'Help to Buy' scheme, the bubble is a threat to the whole future of our precariously situated economy: we still have banks that are too-big-to-fail and households who are only just managing to make mortgage payments despite interest rates at a record low.

The costs of this failing system are enormous.

The government subsidy to private landlords is now worth £35billion a year, and has risen by more than a third since the Coalition took power.

There is no real regional housing policy. I was surprised to see a seafront hotel in Skegness advertised in London's Evening Standard - complete with a 50-seater dining room and 19 ensuite bedroms.

Then I saw the price, and why some agent had thought this was worth a punt: £450,000 - the cost of a one-bedroom flat in Camden, central London.

It's a demonstration of the imbalance in Britain's regional development - the way money, jobs, resources and power have flooded into London and the South East.

And that's the first issue that we must remember when it comes to housing: there are up to one million empty homes in Britain, many of them in areas where there are few economic opportunities and little incentive to make homes fit for occupation.

Ultimately, a sensible approach to housing requires changes to economic policies so that the jobs go to where the houses already are. Only the Green Party has the courage to make this happen.

And when it comes to housing policy specifically, our ideas are getting real traction.

First there are "smart" rent caps to stop landlords increasing rents on a whim, combined with greatly enhanced security of tenure for tenants. Imagine moving into your new rented home and thinking not "wonder if I'll last a year here?" but instead "this is a place where I can settle down and put down roots".

It's great to see Labour heading in the direction of Green Party policy here, but their three-year tenancy proposal doesn't go far enough for family homes.

Then there's the Energy Bill Revolution, a Green Party policy developed by charities and unions to tackle fuel poverty. We'd use carbon tax revenues to insulate every home that needs it, taking nine out of 10 households out of fuel poverty, creating up to 200,000 jobs, and significantly cutting carbon emissions.

Thirdly, we would end the "Right to Buy" council houses - a disastrous policy which has put vast amounts of public property into private hands.

By 2013 up to a third of all council homes sold under Right to Buy had been sold on to just a few rich landlords.

And we would rein in the developers.

They're rushing to build on greenfield sites, where profits are highest. But there are many excellent brownfield sites, in or near town centres, with transport at the door.

Brownfield is more expensive to develop but the developers' profit margins can bear it.

We would give local councils and communities new powers to prevent the developers' greenfield rush.

And we would make sure that new housing is built to far higher standards than currently mandated. A truly affordable home is one that is also affordable to run - with energy bills as low as possible - and far too often that's not the case even in new builds.

We need to move from regarding houses as "a great investment" to being, simply, homes: a comfortable, secure, appropriately-sized place to live, ideally close to your work, place of study and leisure facilities.

It's a huge challenge. But it's central to delivering a society that works for the common good, rather than for the profits of bankers, speculators and developers.

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