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Letter to Editor: Social housing in Harlow

Politics / Mon 16th Dec 2013 at 10:53am

WITH reference to the recent correspondence about housing for local people:

Clare Harrison’s original letter was in response to the news that Harlow Council had agreed to build a very small amount of social housing. She expressed the completely understandable frustration of those who have been on the housing list for a very long time and who are still waiting to be housed. We agree that it is wrong that working people should have to pay high rents to private landlords, or live with their parents well beyond the time when they should be able to live independently and start their own families. Since her letter, there have been numerous others on the subject, most of which have attacked foreign workers.

In our view this is not the real problem but it suits our bosses that we think so. As long as working people fight amongst themselves over the few scraps of housing and work that are thrown our way, and as long as we continue to direct our anger at this group of workers or that, the bosses and the landlords can happily carry on making a profit out of our economic hardship without risk of us actually organising ourselves together and demanding proper solutions to problems. We will never know the power we could have to change things for the better for everyone while we blame foreigners or even so-called scroungers for our common plight.

There has been for a long time now a serious lack of social housing. Nationally, throughout the twentieth century, socialists successfully fought for decent housing for the working classes. Harlow itself was for many years a socialist town with a proud history of well designed social housing, a programme that came to an end with Margaret Thatcher’s right-to-buy scheme which many people in Harlow understandably took advantage of. However, people were lied to about replacing those homes, the profits from their sales were kept, and, nowadays, in some parts of the country, up to one third of old council homes are in the hands of private landlords.

So there is very little council house stock left to offer. Socialists have consistently called for a concerted effort to build up the stock of council houses and flats to house all the people who need them. Of course Ms Harrison should be housed; so too should foreign workers be housed. We have an ageing population and depend on their contribution to keep services running and pay our pensions. Working people do not need to fall for the trick that they should blame each other for the problem. Put the problem where it belongs, with the lack of political will and the lack of funding to build more houses.

Isobel Urquhart

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