It was announced this week that Millennials
are likely going to face renting their property well into retirement – people who have just
started renting now. And, of course it highlights the great crisis, that is the housing crisis
in Britain. Whether that’s the crisis, the inability people have of buying their own
house, the escalating rents that they face, both in the private sector and the lack of
any affordable social housing that’s been built. So you can well understand why people have
been well-priced out of the housing market and are forced to rent their house. And it
was pointed out recently that if the price of a chicken had kept pace with the price
of housing in London, a chicken today would cost you £56 (cluck!). House prices in Edinburgh, I remember quipping
that million pound houses “are ten a penny in Edinburgh” today. You’re not going to get a mortgage, you’re
not going to get a deposit together for an average-sized house. The average price of
a house in London is now beyond £400,000. So we need to act, and we need to act quickly.
We need to build affordable houses, we need to bring house prices down to a level that
people can afford. And while we’re doing that – we have to do
what they did in America after the Second World War. To those soldiers, for example,
returning to New York City, they introduced rent controls.
Where they pegged it for 99 years. That’s right! Ninety Nine Years! The tenants movement in New York City managed
to peg their rent, in Brooklyn and the other boroughs in New York to the same level it
was in 1945. To stop the escalation of rents, to stop landlordism and to ensure
that the right to an affordable house was common to everybody. We’ve much to learn from
them. We have to control rents to an affordable
level. We have to allow people to live in houses fit for the 21st Century, and see that
as a right for everyone.