Housing plans central to who we choose as mayor

REMEMBER Mrs Thatcher selling off all those council houses! The government’s got a new plan called ‘Right to Regenerate’ which they say will increase house building and improve local areas.

Like council house sales, it involves selling off council land, garages and empty properties, but will it work?

Birmingham, with a population of over one million, has only about 60,000 council properties these days, half the number of the 1980s.

Many homes were indeed sold under ‘Right to Buy’ and it’s worth noting that more than 40 per cent of those properties are now in the hands of private landlords.

We do need action when people sit on land that could be used for housing but that’s really a private sector rather than council problem.

If the government wants more houses, there are easier ways.

They could allow councils and housing associations the money needed to bring properties, requiring urgent improvements, back into use. They could direct that small parcels of land be sold for cooperatives, like that in Stirchley, or modern self-build schemes.

We should all agree there’s a desperate shortage, requiring a major building programme involving councils, housing associations, and private developers.

Birmingham built 18,000 council dwellings between 1945 and 1953, during a period when Labour and Tory governments classed housing as a priority.

I come across some awful situations. A victim of domestic violence, forced to share a bed with her three daughters; a GP telling me that his patient’s housing situation is responsible for her mental health; desperate grandparents who can’t understand why their grandchildren can’t get a home in the area where they’ve lived all their lives.

Later this year, we’ll have an election for the West Midlands Mayor.

House building is a mayoral responsibility. Let’s encourage a bidding war and make clear the candidate who’ll get the vote is the one with the most credible housing plans. I know who I have confidence in.

My idea of regeneration isn’t flogging assets off cheaply, with disregard for local communities, but delivering the one thing everyone needs: a decent, affordable home in which to bring up your family.

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