Monday, May 21, 2007

Margaret Hodge under fire over immigration

It appears that Margaret Hodge is under attack from romantic trots in the Labour and Liberal Democrat party over her remarks on social housing and immigrants.

Firstly when Margaret (and indeed I) are talking about immigrants we are talking about recent arrivals not people who have either been here for years or generations.

Now we have these comments from an article in the Guardian (bastion of romantic Trotskyism) today.
But the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, John McDonnell, who tried to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership last week, said: "This is a deeply reactionary and dangerous statement to make. The issue, however, is not the allocation of housing, but the chancellor's failure to allow affordable house building over the last 10 years - resulting in the present housing crisis."
Well, John does rightly identify the fact that this government has built less social housing than the Conservative government before it. However there are many causes of the current housing crisis and one of those is the increase in number of households, a situation exacerbated by immigration.
Jon Cruddas, MP for Mrs Hodge's neighbour seat of Dagenham, and a deputy leadership candidate, said: "We're in danger of racialising arguments over housing allocation rather than concentrating on the need for greater social housing provision."
The problem here is Jon Cruddas can't see the wood for the trees. This is not a question of race. Poor Jewish families who have been here for generations along with black, Pakistani as well as white are facing similar problems. They can't get housing yet someone who has just arrived in the country can. Race does not play a part in this debate unless someone is trying to close it down.
The Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, Andrew Stunell, said: "There are one-and-a-half million families on the council housing waiting list and the Labour government keeps selling houses off. The first thing to do is start building social housing again, not to blame immigrants for the catastrophic government failure to tackle the issue."
I see. Blame it all on the right to buy. One of the policies which many in Labour including Roy Hattersley now regret ever opposing because they can see the very positive benefits on the ground. The right to buy has transformed many council housing estates and brought hope to them as well as aspiration. It makes me laugh that it is the romantic trots in the Liberal Democrats
have not caught up with the reality that Labour for the most part has.

They do also blame the lack of building social housing under this government which is lower than under the previous Conservative one.

On the bright side from this BBC report, it is clear that Simon Hughes listens to his constituents and despite being a Liberal Democrat is not so much of a romantic old trot that he can't see what is going on. He says:

Lib Dem president, Simon Hughes, whose south-east London constituency recognised that housing allocation was among the biggest causes of racism.

"The worst cause of racial strife and antagonism is when new property is built, social property, and when people who appear to have no link with the community move into it, when other people who may be desperately needing to move, can't get a move",
I have to say I agree. His comments echo mine, and apply equally to some one coming from another part of the country as well as another part of the world. Local people do expect to be higher up the pecking order.

Incedently Hazel Blears also recognises the problem, as you will see from this article in the Times today.


Gary Munro said...

you're not half as clever as you are pal

whats your solution exactly?

it seems to be that your in favour of selling off social housing at a discount while building new social housing (at full expense to the tax payer) to take its place?

i'm not sure thats a very effective use of tax payers money old chap.

and i thought you were against subsidies?

all in all, i'm somewhat confused old boy

Benedict White said...

Gary, " you're not half as clever as you are pal"

Surely you meant "You're not half as clever as you THINK you are"?

Firstly part of teh problem is the number of new households in the country, and part of that is down to immigration.

Secondly thsi government is building less social housing than the Conservatives did. That needs to be fixed.

Thirdly if you want a full argument over the right to buy, start by reading this:

gaz said...

thats great but i did manage to pick all this up in the original post.

you've not begun to answer my point.

1. this is a waste of taxpayers money
2. i thought you were against subsidies

Benedict White said...

Gaz, how is it a waste of tax payers money?

You make the statement on this and subsidies on the basis that it costs as much to build social housing as private housing.

It doesn't. For a start the land does not cost as much. In fact if you want to build a large private development you have to give some of the land up for social housing.

Also land is only worth what it is by virtue of the planning consent you can get on it. So if it is designated as agricultural land it is not worth as much as prime building land. Land ear marked for social housing has a very limited market and hence cost.

However when they are sold off to the tenants who live in them they are sold valued at full market value, from which there is a discount. This does not stretch as far as the discount the land was bought at.

What allowing the right to buy does do is raise the aspirations of estates. It works.

Gazza said...

1. your confusing social housing with affordable housing.

2. there is no such thing as 'planning concent earmarked for social housing'

by the way, i am not necessarily against the right to buy, per se, only in the circumstances of today, where there is no social housing being built to replace it - hence the housing shortages..

the current set-up is a disaster that is happening right now, and thatchers ideologically motivated privatisation is half of this equation.

"they are sold valued at full market value, from which there is a discount"

you do know how ridiculous that statement is, right?

Benedict White said...

Gaz, !. I don't think I am. I think you are making a difference where they may be none.

If you want to build a development of 50 houses you will have to hand over land for 5 units to someone to build social/affordable housing. That will go to a registered social landlord. (RSL)

2. If you want to build housing developments generally some of the development has to be for social housing.

As for not being against the right to buy, I am pleased to hear it. However who do you think Thatcher sold the houses to, to privatise them? The tenants? Housing associations are not normal private landlords. They are still controlled by government in ways which private landlords are not.

As for the lack of new social housing this government is building less that John Major's. Nuff said.