Page 10, 18th April 1980

18th April 1980
Page 10
Page 10, 18th April 1980 — How we

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People: Heseltine
Locations: Liverpool, London


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How we

should prepare for `home rule'

MORE than 50 per cent of British homes are owneroccupied — a higher proportion than in West Germany, France, Holland or Denmark.

By 1977 houses made up nearly 35 per cent of personal wealth. The equivalent. figure was only 19 per cent in 1960, so massive funds have been (liveried away from productive investment which Britain so desperately needs.

In 1978 the Government spent or remitted £5.5 billion of taxpayers' money — one third of the yield of income tax — in order to distort the housing market.

Yet we see a public house building programme just emerging from the tower block lunacies of the 1960s to be crippled by interest charges and government cash limits. We see £1 billion given away to homeowners in mortgage relief, but given on the top slice of personal income so that the richest homehuvers have borrowed and spend as much as they can, bidding up house prices in the process, making it harder and harder for first time buyers.

Council house waiting lists are lengthening, estates are being increasingly vandalised, private housing is deteriorating as spiralling mortgage rates swallow up more and more of homeowners' money.

Against this background Mr Secretary Heseltine's Housing Bill seems largely irrelevant. It ignores the crazy system of housing finance. (When are the Tories at least going to announce that mortgage relief will only he paid at standard rates of tax?'

II offers little hope to the millions who still live in homes without inside toilets or bathrooms. Until 13 people died in a fire in London and the Government was forced to respond, it would have done nothing for the people who fester in our squalid lodging houses and hostels.

Council houses are cornpulsorils up for grabs, but the same rights of home ownership have not been offered to the 13.9 per cent of the population who live as tenants in private property.

Of eon rse we should support the extension of home ownership as the best way to ensure liberty and equality. But the Government's policies of compulsion are hopelessly mis

guided. Council house sales may be suitable for big city authorities — Liverpool for example has some 3,0110 empty council dwellings — but enforced sales could be disastrous in rural areas where very small shifts between private and public housing stock can upset the balance of a cOMmunity.

Local authorities themselves should decide whether or not they sell council houses.

Housing investment should be shifted towards building houses for sale.

If the Government wanted to be really radical, it would offer to pay tenants deposits In enable them to move out of council accommodation into houses built for sale. Prospective tenants of new estates should be encouraged to participate in the design stage so that real needs are met.

In the case of people who do not want to by their own council homes — and curious as it may seem to the Conservative mentality they have that right – • the Government's proposed tenants' charter does not go far enough. They should be given genuine control. It is financially

absurd that it costs to fit a washer on a tap in a council house.

Those who have the day-today control over their estates are far more likely to keep them in good order, and at far less expense to the taxpayer. 'tenants should be given incentives — if need be rent reductions — to set up their own co-operatives,

Finally there are private tenants, for whom the Government proposes nothing except increased insecurity. I have introduced simultaneously with the Government's Housing Bill my own Rights of Private Tenants Bill to ensure proper standards of sanitation in the private rented sector and give tenants the right of purchase where landlords fail to fulfil these obligations.

I have always believed in home rule. The Government instead proposes benefits for the few, with possibly increased distortion of Britain's housing finance. waiting lists will not be cut, nor will had housing go away. For most there will be no improvement at all but rather less hope of decent housing in a climate of public spending cuts and decay.

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