A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Cruddas on social housing

There's a report in of all places the Mail on Sunday about Jon Cruddas' concerns about social housing.

Assuming they've reported what he said accurately he's right that there is a lack of social housing being built in London at the moment. But:

- he's wrong to say this is "a generic political problem" wider than London and the South East - in fact the problem in some cities is over-supply of cheap housing, leading to empty tinned-up houses on fairly new estates which then slide into decay - this is why some northern councils are actively seeking to get tenants from Hackney and other inner London boroughs to transfer and live in bigger homes outside London

- it definitely isn't a problem as he is quoted as saying that "access to housing is becoming racialised because of a lack of supply." I'm surprised he would repeat this dangerous myth being put about by the far right. The truth is that most of the ethnic minority residents arriving on council estates in Jon's borough of Barking & Dagengham are not impoverished asylum seekers getting housed by the council because they are in housing need - they are people with jobs (often if they are Asian or West African highly qualified with degrees) who are moving out of the inner city and buying properties as home-owners from 1st generation white right-to-buyers who are moving on out to dearer places like Canvey Island or Billericay. These people aren't reducing the social housing stock in London if they are buying homes that already were owner-occupied - they are freeing up the social housing they have vacated further into the city. The problem is a cultural one - some white people in outer London need to get their heads round the fact that there are black and other ethnic minority people who have better paid jobs than they do and hence can buy houses in the suburbs.


Anonymous Cruddsupporter said...

When I saw Cruddas speak a few days ago he made clear that there are large numbers of white working class voters who see housing as a racialised issue, even though this is a result of misunderstanding and the racist lies of the BNP. He obviously completely rejects this "racialisation", but at the same time there's no point burying your head in the sand by pretending that this is not how the issue is seen by too many working class families. Whilst I appreciate you are not a Cruddas fan, there seems little point in attacking him over this! Surely he deserves some praise for raising this fundamentally important issue in the contest? I can't imagine it being raised otherwise. And it's clearly not a crazy leftie turn-on, as it doesn't involve a solidarity campaign with a 3rd world demagogue or Blair-bashing. It's a simple cause: in parts of the country we desperately need more social housing. I would have thought we could all unite around this.

How easy is it to persuade residents of East London to move up North?

1:01 pm, February 19, 2007

Anonymous james said...

I saw the GMTV interview they're quoting and it's obvious that Cruddas was in no way suggesting that the social housing supply WAS being allocated on racial grounds - that would clearly be ridiculous. He was just saying that the issue has become racialised in the sense that people see it as being about race.

I would dispute that the lack of affordable housing is only a problem in London and the South East. There is plenty of evidence that there are shortages in other cities and rural areas all over the UK; however, it is true that in other cities it is the condition rather than quantity of the stock that is the top priority.

Nonetheless, it all adds up to a need for investment in social housing, an issue which has been rather neglected by politicians and the media across the spectrum.

2:27 pm, February 19, 2007

Blogger Duc De Nemours said...

Luke, you are being a little naughty here. I have to say i agree with the Cruddas supporter.

There are large numbers of people in London who see housing as a race issue. Trust me, you can tell people that social housing is allocated according to need rather than race until you are blue in the face and you are never really sure they believe you.

It is a symptom of the chronic shortage. Cruddas would never get my vote but it is dishonourable to attack him on this.

Furthermore, in my view, several things regarding housing in London are true at the same time. Certainly the (highly 'residualised' i believe is the rather dry term for it) white working class will have to come to terms with the fact that some people who are not white have done quite well for themselves but the situation is much more complex than that. There are large numbers of people living in temporary accommodation (much of it ex-right to buy) in London - particularly Cruddas' patch actually - as other london boroughs take advantage of the cheaper rents there.

It will surely not surprise you Luke to know that many people living in social accommodation don't have much idea about the tenure arrangements of the house next door to them. What they do claim to see is the house occupied by a constant cycle of (often non-white) families who seemingly have no ties to the area (and as mentioned before probably don't want to be there) move out after 18 months. Throw into this a couple of 'nightmare tenants' and a story about how their son or friend's son with a terrible disability can't get rehoused off the social and you have the very motor of race conflict. I do not see how it can hurt to point this kind of thing out. In fact the only thing i don't understand is why Cruddas claims he has had to go round the country to think it worth mentioning.

The politics of race and housing are utterly toxic. They always have been. Manning the barricades so that the government provides sufficient social housing to make the BNP go away would require a degree of financial outlay is clearly not an option (nor is it the right solution for that matter) but then neither is poking at the issue with as long a stick as possible in the hope it will go away on its own - which is rather the impression i got from your post.

3:05 pm, February 19, 2007


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