I was very inspired recently listening to a Guardian Podcast when Dexter Dias QC told us that we only get the Justice that we fight for.
“If you want it” he said “you have to fight for it. And now is the time you have to fight”.
And he’s right. It’s too late to do anything about the past. The future depends on what happens now. So now is the time.
What is housing justice?
The podcast was on gender politics and the Justice Dias was talking about involved female issues such as FGM. This blog, on the other hand, is dedicated to housing. Are there issues in housing which require justice which we should fight for?
The answer has to be ‘yes’.
Issues to fight for
It is generally accepted that housing is in a mess in this country. ‘Broken’ is the word used by our own government in their recent White Paper.
But housing is a complex subject and there are many component parts. Before we start looking at them though we need to decide we want. What is the housing ‘promised land’ that we are seeking?
My list would go something as follows:
- Sufficient housing for our population with
- Sufficient social housing for those who need it
- Decent standards for all housing
- Proper regulation of the Private Rented Sector, and
- A fair tax system which all landlords pay
Why housing is important
Housing is INCREDIBLY important! After water and food, shelter is a basic human need.
If you are homeless:
- You will have little chance of getting a job
- You are more likely to be ill
- Your children will be taken into care (assuming you are not eligible for re-housing)
- Children will do less well if they are living in sub-standard housing – and children are our future! We should invest in them
- People living in poor housing are more likely to get sick – creating greater pressure on the NHS – which we all pay for and which is also in crisis
- Poor housing can affect the whole neighbourhood, encouraging crime and gang warfare and discouraging local business and investment
- It can also affect more than your health. Good architecture can raise your spirit and inspire you, whereas bad housing can cause depression and hopelessness.
As an example of how things can change – take a look at this BBC article on how graffiti and house painting has created dramatic improvements in this run-down Mexican town.
The fight starts now
I am not a politician or street fighter but a lawyer who thinks and writes. I fight by writing about things. So in this series, I will be writing about what is wrong with housing today and putting forward ideas on putting it right.
The housing crisis is a many-headed hydra, and its problems cannot be solved just by cutting off one or two of its heads.
For the purpose of this series I will be looking at issues one by one – but be aware that to have any real effect we need to deal with several issues at the same time. The sum is greater than its parts.
Doing nothing is not really an option – or rather it is an option but will probably result in the worst possible outcome. For example – population growth in the UK does not look like going down anytime soon. Where will they all live?
The biggest problem of them all
The biggest problem, therefore, must be the housing shortage. If only more housing were available for people then the other problems would be less problematic or might not even exist at all.
There would be little point, for example, in landlords serving section 21 notices solely to force tenants to pay higher rents, if numerous similar properties were available locally to the tenants at the same or lower rent.
So much of what I will be writing about in this series will be looking at problems of supply.
But even if the supply issues are solved and we have an abundance of places for people to live, other problems, such as safety standards, will remain. So I will be considering some of these other issues too.
A different world needs different solutions
When considering the future we need to be informed by the past, but we also need to bear in mind that we now live in a very different world from that of our fathers and grandfathers.
- We have a bigger and more diverse population in the UK
- With climate change, we may well be facing a smaller land mass
- The nature of work has changed
- Technology is bringing in new services and ways of doing things, and
- We live in a time of political upheaval
So the solutions from 100 years ago may not suit us today. Or indeed be possible – practically or politically.
You may not agree with some of the things that I will be writing about in this series (I may not agree with some of them myself) – but in a crisis situation, all options need to be considered. And to be said.
So I reserve the right to write about all aspects – the sensible, the probable, the improbable and the downright bonkers – and to consider a few ‘space age’ and futuristic scenarios too. After all, now was the future once.
You need to fight too
I will be fighting largely by putting ideas out there. Ideas are very powerful.
But it will be up to you to action the ideas you like. The housing crisis is not going to be solved by people sitting back and waiting for someone else to do something about it.
So at the end of every section, I will make a few suggestions for practical things you can do to help. Like this:
This is the start of what will probably be a long series. If you have any suggestions for things I should write about in this series or solutions to the problem, please use the suggestions box on the sidebar.
Please, can you also link to any reference or other material about your topic – to help me with the research.
I will start next week by looking at yimbyism.