THE BLOG
01/02/2016 06:26 GMT | Updated 28/01/2017 05:12 GMT

What Makes a Home a House?

What makes a home a house?

Telling people they might get kicked out of it in a few years, that'll get the job done.

And anyone now being 'given' a council house these days knows how that feels. No point in doing the garden up. No point in setting up a local mum-and-baby group. No point in joining the neighbourhood watch. Might not be your neighbourhood in five years.

Five years isn't a long time. Anyone with a six year old child knows that. A chancellor trying to keep a promise about clearing the deficit knows that. Anyone trying to build a home, and be part of a community, knows that.

I doubt there are many people, even at the DWP, that believe the 'five year tenancy' policy will help build stronger communities. That's not really the point of the policy, is it? That's not even the point of council housing...Is it?

I know that it's now a fact that council housing is a form of welfare, 'given' by the state and funded by 'people like me', and that no one would live there unless they were too lazy to work or too unfortunate to go for the universally preferable option of home ownership. Politicians accept this as true. The media accept this as true. Everyone I talk to accepts this is true...it's just...

What if there's another way to look at it?

What about my Granddad? He lived in a council house his entire life, and he never considered himself a benefit recipient. Maybe that's because no one got round to indoctrinating him into the group think - or maybe it's because he actually paid for his house. He never asked anyone to 'give' him anything. He always worked and he paid for any council services through the rent he paid, in full and on time, every week for eighty years.

He chose to live in a house run by the local authority not because it wasn't possible for him to do things independently, but because it made no sense for him to try. The council could buy boilers in bulk, renovate whole streets as part of a single project and didn't skim a huge profit off the top. As a result, my Grandfather, and most of his generation, could benefit from central organisation and economies of scale. He didn't need the tax payer to prop him up. His rent being lower than in the private sector wasn't a result of anyone's charity; it was a result of economic sense.

He didn't even mind that, as he could afford to pay the full amount, some of his rent money was being used to help those less fortunate. It was still better and cheaper for him than buying his own boiler, booking his own contractors and giving a chunk of his income to a wealthy landlord. And, because council housing wasn't being wiped out with an ideological fervour, there was enough of it to go around. Anyone could access a clean, safe and secure home for a reasonable price if they wanted, and people would fund the system they were benefiting from so that those in private accommodation didn't have to.

I know - what sort of a dreadful dystopian society is this?

And it gets worse - my Granddad was proud of his council house. His estate was full of people from all walks of life, from the unemployed that couldn't afford to rent privately to the professional people that thought private renting was a daft idea. There was no stigma attached to being a council tenant, because council estates were not full of people from only one background. And because there were more council houses and those houses were not a drain on the public purse, people could stay there. These were their homes, places they could raise children and grow old in after their children left. There was an incentive to keep the house to a high standard, to look after the street it was on and get involved in the wider community, because this would always be their own doorstep. They could be there long enough to reap the results of neglecting their area, or benefit from the improvements they were a part of.

Makes you sick just thinking about it, I'm sure. But relax, for in the real world there is literally no alternative to Council Housing As Welfare. There is no alternative to a world where the poorest are robbed of all security and actively discouraged from taking pride in their homes. No option but for everyone to pay the rent of the poorest on top of the extortionate rates they must pay for themselves, in an economy where demand outstrips supply and landlords can charge whatever they want because they're the only game in town. No way back to the golden era your parents are always banging on about, when neighbours said hello to one another and people scrubbed their front doorstep - that was the era of council housing, and it's over.

In fact, it never happened. And anyone that says it did can report immediately for reprogramming.