Regional Secretary passionately calls for a South East Labour vision on housing

Steve Torrance, UNISON South East Regional Secretary told delegates to the South East Labour Party Conference that thousands of council homes needed to be built and the broken private rented sector needed to be fixed to help public sector workers find decent homes for them and their families. The Regional Secretary was moving a UNISON motion on housing, the full speech can be read below.

Conference, Steve Torrance Regional Secretary UNISON South East moving housing composite. 

Conference, today the UK is among the richest countries in the world, but has 1.4 million families living below the poverty line. 1 million working class people, our people, are on local council housing waiting lists, with their chances of finding a home through that route are slim to none and slim just left town. 

It’s a stain on our country that homelessness has doubled since 2010 and 75,000 families are living a day to day existence in temporary accommodation. Including 151 Grenfell fire families stuck in temporary accommodation 70 weeks after the disaster!

The shortage of decent affordable housing is an absolute scandal. And by affordable I do not mean the Govt bogus target of 80% of the market rate. 80% of market rate is still beyond the means of Nurses in the NHS or low paid Teaching Assistants working in schools. 

Nye Bevan’s name is synonymous with the birth of the NHS but he was actually the Minister for Health and HOUSING

He saw, plainly, the misery of damp, cold, overcrowded homes and resolved to make a difference to the lives of those people. For him, the link between ill health and housing was obvious.

His Housing Act made public housing something that was available to and intended for; everyone – not just the working classes or the underclasses as it is viewed now, but true to Bevan’s vision of the living tapestry of a mixed community. 

Poor housing is thought to cost the NHS £600m a year. That’s everything from fire and flood to damp and mould causing life changing, life limiting and life affecting health issues.

Health and Housing are so intrinsically linked that housing should, as a matter of policy, be a Public health issue.

Local government funding has been gutted by the Tories, a government which gives tax breaks to property Moguls in Mayfair and slashes housing benefits to the poorest in Medway.  

Owning a home has become virtually impossible for many public sector workers. Our research shows that on average it would take 32 years for a public service worker to save for a deposit in the South East . In addition to obtaining a mortgage which would be around 11 times their annual salary. 

Meanwhile, rental costs mean spending more than a third of their wages on rent.  And here in Southampton a NHS Porter spends half of their take home pay on rent. We need to fix the rented sector and fast. 

But Labour Council’s do make a real difference. Councils, like Crawley and  Milton Keynes who have built hundreds of new council homes. 

But let’s be honest there are some councils who need to reach for their shovels, put on a hard hat and get building, affordable and sustainable council homes. 

we need to build hundreds of thousands of councils houses, and yes we need to suspend right to buy. 

But first we need a Labour Government. So let’s work together in UNISON and across the labour movement to put Jeremy Corbyn in number 10 so we can build homes for the many and not the few!