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BRITAIN'S HOMELESS:

VICTIMS OF CAPITALISM

by Nick Wakeling

THE RECENT publicity surrounding the case of the Plymouth couple who were given a 6ft by 4ft tent to live in by the Council, because there was no council accommodation available, dramatically underlines the desperate plight of Britain's homeless.

Britain's housing statistics make depressing reading. There are currently 200,000 British people who are classified as being homeless. There were, at the last count, 1.7 million households in England alone residing in grossly substandard accommodation ― living in homes without inside lavatories, without bathrooms, without proper lighting, heating and cooking facilities.

Council housing waiting lists are growing longer each year. The latest survey from Shelter ― the national campaign for the homeless ― shows 4,200,000 households on waiting lists in England and Wales ― 150,000 more than in 1979.

While the demand for decent housing is rapidly accelerating, the number of houses being built, in both the public and private sectors, is actually declining. In fact housebuilding has now fallen to the lowest point since 1945. Statistics issued by the Department of the Environment reveal that only 152,000 new homes were started last year.

The figures are down from 220,900 in 1979 and compare with almost 351,000 starts made in 1972 under the previous Conservative government.

Only 53,600 houses were begun in the public sector, down from 80,300 in 1979 and from the high mark of almost 174,000 in 1975. The number of private houses started was 98,400 ― the lowest since 1953. The number of houses completed last year was 229,200 of which 124,600 were in the private sector.

DECLINE AND CUTBACKS

There are a number of reasons for this decline in housebuilding. Firstly, private housebuilders are being hit, as are many other firms, by record interest rates. Their problems are further compounded by the rocketing price of land in our inflationary economy. Furthermore, due to the recession, fewer people can afford to buy their own homes. Taking out a mortgage is an expensive business thanks to the present usurious rates of interest. For example, borrowing £10,000 will cost you at least £36,375 in repayments over a 25 year period at current interest rates. Understandably few people in the present climate of mass unemployment and uncertainty are willing to take on such heavy commitments which in the future they may well be unable to meet.

Secondly, the reason for the cutback in public housebuilding is that housing as a whole has borne 75% of the public expenditure cuts which the present government has planned for its first four years of office. Spending is to be cut by 48 per cent to £2,790 millions by 1983-4.

This will mean that by 1985 about half a million fewer homes will have been built than were originally planned, and the number of new council houses could be down to 30,000 a year ― the lowest level since the 1930s.

Coupled with this the Tories are savagely cutting subsidies for council house tenants. Tenants are now facing rent increases varying from £2.95 to £4.50 a week, and it is estimated that the average council house rent will rise to £21 a week by 1984.

In 1981 more than five million British people live in slums like this

The amount of money available to Councils in order to provide Improvement Grants for owner-occupiers to modernise their terraced homes has also been cut. This has forced many small building firms ― who rely on such work ― to go into bankruptcy.

Thus we have people wanting homes and builders wanting work, and yet we have the crazy situation whereby we have increasing numbers of homeless people and record numbers of builders going bankrupt! Clearly something is radically wrong.

ROOT CAUSE

Although the Tories may waffle on in their election manifestos about "home-ownership" and a "home for all" they have no plan to house Britain's homeless. In fact by their shortsighted policy (in the present circumstances) of selling off council houses they have only succeeded in lengthening waiting lists. In doing so they have totally ignored the root cause of Britain's chronic housing problem; namely the way in which housebuilding is financed; and in particular the colossal burden of debt which local housing authorities owe to the banks.

In order to finance the building of new housing stock local authorities are forced to borrow the money they require from banks. In a sane financial system this should not present any problem as over a relatively short number of years the rents and rates obtained from these properties would cover the original outlay. But we have an insane financial system whereby new credit is created by private banks and lent into circulation as an interest-bearing debt.

Due to the required rate of expansion of council housing this added increment of interest has resulted in councils being unable to repay their original loans whilst charging to tenants fair and realistic rents. So to maintain an adequate level of housing, and to repay original loans, councils have been forced to borrow more and more money from the banks.

Over the years this has added up, and now local authorities find themselves caught up in an endless spiral of debt. Research has shown that 70% of local housing authority expenditure now consists of debt charges, while about 50% represents interest payments alone.

Take for instance my local authority, Norwich. The rents it obtains from its 24,700 council dwellings (£5,277,848) do not even cover the debt charges (£7,996,740) on its housing account.

Clearly the system has got totally out of hand. But the Tories, by cutting housing subsidies to local authorities and thereby forcing up rents, are only passing the financial buck to tenants.

The bankers' debt system is also to blame for the appallingly high cost of private property. Inflation ― which is caused by the banks lending money into circulation as an interest-bearing debt not related to any increases in the productive capacity of the nation ― has caused property prices to soar.

The price of the land is the most important element in the price of a house. As it is a finite resource, land always tends to rise in price in times of inflation as institutions, and people with savings, buy it as a form of investment. In an inflation-free economy this would not happen as there would not simply be the purchasing power to pay such ridiculous prices.

Furthermore, the banks, by being able to create credit out of nothing and lend it out at interest, are able to pay depositors high interest rates. Building Societies, which do not enjoy this privilege, also have to pay high interest rates to investors simply in order to compete with the banks. To remain profitable they then have to charge these high interest rates on to their mortgages. Therefore home-buyers are lumbered with a huge debt around their necks for many years, and end up paying many times more than what their property is actually worth.

FINANCIAL REFORM THE KEY

Thus it can be seen that a reformed banking system is the key to solving Britain's housing crisis. Inflation must be eliminated from the economy by the State issuing new credit, interest-free, related to the rise in the Gross National Product. Such a system would cause property prices to fall, eliminate the interest factor from mortgages, and thereby bring house purchase within the range of every British family.

A policy of interest-free State loans would also, by eliminating the interest factor, cut the cost of council housing by half; thus enabling councils to provide decent housing at an economic rent.

Whilst recognising that a successful housing policy relies largely on changing the financial system, we must not overlook two other important considerations.

IMMIGRANTS

Firstly, we must not ignore the Immigrant factor. Although it would be wrong to blame Coloured Immigrants for Britain's housing problems, as they would still exist even if there were no Immigrants in Britain; it cannot be denied that in the present circumstances every Immigrant with a home effectively means a British person remaining homeless.

In fact in many areas Immigrants get priority treatment, over Whites, when it comes to housing. A recent case, by no means unique, happened in West Bromwich where the council made council houses available for Vietnamese Immigrants. It's just tough luck if you happen to be White and live in West Bromwich as you can expect a 21 year wait for a council house or flat.

When we come to power the housing situation will undoubtedly be improved by the repatriation of all Coloured Immigrants and their descendants, thus allowing hundreds of thousands of properties to be inhabited by British people.

Secondly, we must bear in mind the type and quality of housing we require in a future Nationalist Britain. The recent trend of constructing vast tower blocks of flats must be reversed. This is seen as a cheap way of housing the Working Class by shortsighted politicians and planners who pay no regard to the resulting social consequences.

COMMUNITIES

Instead, wherever possible, we must seek to renovate existing property in order to avoid the breaking up of communities. Unfortunately, in many of Britain's towns and cities, many properties are beyond repair and renovation and are only fit for demolition. Whether or not we decide to build new houses on these sites must be seen in the overall context of a possible policy of de-urbanisation. It may well be that with the introduction of new production techniques, and a totally reorganised economy, we may find it possible to reverse the trend of the last 150 years and encourage people to move from our crowded cities back to the under-populated rural areas.

The Nationalist policies outlined in this article are the only solution to Britain's housing crisis, and the only hope for the growing number of British people who desperately require decent housing. The old parties, because they are subservient to the powerful Banking fraternity, dare not implement such a system. The results of which we see today with the queue for homes, like the queue for jobs, growing longer and longer each day.