The independent London newspaper

Council housing 100 years on…

09 August, 2019

• AS we celebrate 100 years of council housing I am inspired by the actions of our forbears when they passed the Addison housing act which gave local authorities the powers and cash to build thousands upon thousands of decent council homes.

Three foundation stones formed the building blocks of that era: health, shelter, and education. Anyone earning up to €53,225 a year after taxes is eligible to apply for a subsidised home in Vienna, in a country where the median gross annual income is €31,500, and 62 per cent live in social housing.

Rents are regulated, typically set at around 10 per cent of median incomes, and where tenants’ rights are strongly protected. As seen in a Channel 4 docu­mentary these homes are like five-star hotels.

In contrast, here, we have been conditioned since the early 1980s that the state cannot have a role to play in making council housing a fundamental right.

Deliberate government policy has meant the limited council homes that we do have need to be rationed to those who are in most need, which leads to stigmatisation and scape­goating instead of a celebration.

Regulating rents for the masses linked to median incomes at truly affordable levels and making homes available through the state, restores an essential sense of security, thereby making the culture of ownership redundant, which is at the heart of what fuels the current housing crisis here.

Most people in Vienna look at house ownership as preposterous. They rent well-maintained, luxury homes, with swimming pools, provided by the state, next to their jobs, schools, and support networks.

No commuting, no anxiety, just healthy living, free of stress. And they are vocal in their resolve to bring down any government tempted to interfere with this successful housing model.

When will we realise that the route to a healthy mind is through a secure, well-maintained, truly affordable home?

We can no longer afford to look at housing as a commodity, it’s meant to be a home. We can no longer afford to deny our housing model is broken and in crisis.

Cabinet Member for Better Homes


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