Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Housing crisis

Young families forced to live in upstairs flats, children living with black mould growing on the walls, young lads sleeping on floors because they can't get a flat... the need for affordable housing has never been more pressing.
Many people in Whitegate ward - and throughout the borough - are living in poor housing conditions and many more will join them if they don't keep up mortgage repayments and rents. But the choice for those in need is getting worse and worse.
In the past 20 years the numbers of council houses in Wrexham has fallen from 20,000 to just over 10,000. Housing associations were meant to make up the gap but there are just 1,500 housing association homes in Wrexham - a drop in the ocean.
Pressures on the private sector with buy-to-let landlords favouring cramming homes with students or migrant workers for extra income mean that many people are being squeezed out of housing.
It's a huge issue - the most important in terms of my ward work - and the council is taking small steps in the right direction. New two-bedroom pensioners' bungalows in Caia will free up many larger homes for families and start to unblock the logjam that exists. But we need far more radical action and a sense of urgency at all levels - council, Assembly and Westminster.
We are told that we can't build council houses but building new homes of the right quality for local need is one simple way to create jobs, meet the housing need and get some income in from rents. The council could also - if it had the funds - take on the hundreds of empty apartments built by developers during the recent housing boom.
It's a shocking indictment of free-market capitalism that we have people sleeping rough in a town with hundreds of empty homes.
Despite this evident need, the UK government is still insisting that councils can't have a level playing field with housing associations, even though the reason for that - the public sector borrowing requirement - has been shot to pieces. Billions have been spent on keeping banks afloat while ordinary families are left to fend for themselves.
Brown would be better off bailing out those in housing need and jobless builders than the merchant bankers who got us into this mess in the first place.

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