10 August 2011

Jude Robinson, the only Labour member of Cornwall unitary council, has written a good post about housing in Cornwall, delineating well the range of arguments. She cites to effect Robin Teverson’s comment that people who have their own roof over their head should think carefully about making decisions that affect people who don’t. Read her post: there is a progressive intelligence at work, it is pointing in the right direction, and there is nothing in it of the wretched isolationism that besets much of the discussion of housing and the economy in Cornwall.

A good start then, but I hope Labour, acknowledging its dismal failure as a government on housing, will quickly go on to develop a fully fleshed out pragmatic and realistic housing policy that avoids fudge and diversions and can command support among progressives.

Local housing for local people
Focusing on affordable housing for rent and purchase, I have set out over several posts what I think. We need many more houses for local people on local wages; look at the thousands registered on the imperfect county waiting list. If we are serious about meeting the need, and meeting it while the people are still alive, we must strive to ensure the houses are built. Apart from difficulties with funding, building affordable houses means sites and there are insufficient easy urban sites left so that means building in semi-rural settings.

If we are to avoid the monotenurial estates of the past, and I think we certainly should, and take advantage of housing cross-subsidy, and meet people’s aspirations, we should support market housing.

Not the harrowing of Cornwall
Be clear. This approach to housing is not the harrowing of Cornwall. This is not concreting Cornwall; it is not in order to line the pockets of developers; it is not about roughly anglifying Cornwall: those hobgoblins are overwrought tosh. It is about providing homes for locals and about Cornwall also playing its part in meeting the housing needs and aspirations of the people of Britain. We are part of Britain, we should not try to opt out of our responsibility for providing a share of its houses.

We, and every area, can reasonably put in caveats, we can put in rigorous environmental and social requirements, and we should – but we have to build many more houses if we wish to build enough houses for local people and provide a share of the UK’s.

The Tory Libdem government has made this building more difficult as I have tried to explain in earlier posts: it has cut funding; it is handing a veto to nimby locals, but has a contradictory national policy of a presumption in favour of development and I do not know how this incoherence will work out. The Tory-Libdems are also handing a rent rise and insecurity of tenure to housing association tenants. Frankly, I think the outlook is poor but hope I’m wrong.

Not dreckly but now
We should support building many more houses because in a civilised and prosperous country everyone, yes, everyone, should have a decent roof over their head and all children, yes, all children, should have a stable and decent physical base. Not dreckly but now.

We should also support rational economic growth in Cornwall, support the circumstances that make prosperous companies possible, another strand in the real pro-Cornish agenda. Such growth brings jobs and competitive wages and tax revenue and is the only feasible way of empowering the poor and middling to become better off. Without growth the material living standards of people in Cornwall, and their opportunities for fuller lives, will not stand still but comparatively decline.

Related posts

Bleak outlook for affordable housing in Cornwall 25 November 2010. This leads to other posts on affordable housing on this blog.

One hand clapping for Stephen Gilbert 8 July 2011