The following motion was passed unanimously at the party’s eighth congress in September.
This congress notes that every day we face the insanity whereby there are more than a million surplus houses while over 250,000 people are homeless, of whom official statistics conservatively estimate that at least 4,500 are living on the streets, while the rest are moved between bed and breakfasts and other temporary accommodation with no stability and generally in poor housing.
In addition, hundreds of thousands live in desperate housing conditions, many failing to keep pace with spiraling rents as private landlords capitalise on the acute housing shortage. The luckier workers waste their lives paying mortgages that in many instances account for half the family income, hoping to be ‘homeowners’ by the time the state comes to sell their property to pay for their carehome costs.
This congress remembers the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower in London, which killed so many working-class people. The fire was a tragedy that demonstrated the terrible reality of housing in Britain today. A tragedy that should never be repeated but one that under capitalism has every chance of recurring as a result of the financial corners cut and the cost savings made by housing developers at the expense of the health, safety and fundamentally the lives of those occupying the houses/flats.
This congress believes that houses should be homes for people, that shelter and a secure family life is a right for every worker. Houses should not, as they are under capitalism, be commodities, sold only to those who can afford to buy or rent them, rather than provided for those who need them. By its utter inability to solve the housing question and meet this basic need of working people, the capitalist system is providing yet more proof that it is well past its use-by date and due for demolition.
This congress believes that the welfare of workers can only be safeguarded by a socialist system of economy, controlled and administered by the working people themselves. As Engels so aptly put it: “As long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution to the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers. The solution lies in the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and the appropriation of all the means of life and labour by the working class itself.” (The Housing Question, 1872)
This congress recognises that we benefit from the experiences and examples of socialist and progressive countries such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, the DPRK and Venezuela. In seeking to put the case for socialism to British workers we should continue to highlight these examples, which show first hand the achievements made by working people. These achievements have the potential to resonate with British workers when, for example, it can be pointed out that in the Soviet Union rents were as little as 2 percent of income, or that surplus and large houses were nationalised to provide housing for those in need.
This congress resolves to better research examples from socialist and progressive countries for use in highlighting what is possible when people are put first in society and the economy is driven by human need and planned accordingly, rather than being driven by the expansion of capital with housing a profit-making commodity.
This congress resolves to use our demands, set out below, within local housing campaigns and local communities to highlight how capitalism, by contrast, is unable to organise society to meet even these simple demands.
1. Scrap the 2016-17 housing bill: the immediate scrapping of the 2016-17 housing bill, which threatens hundreds of thousands with poverty and homelessness.
2. Build council houses not ‘affordable homes’: the provision of at least 300,000 new council houses per year to end the crisis.
3. Guarantee secure social housing: guaranteed, secure and well-maintained social housing for all who want it, close to people’s work and families, and the abolition of divisive allocation criteria.
4. Council ownership not ALMOs: the return of housing association and ‘non-profit’ properties to council ownership.
5. Abolish housing charities: the abolition of housing charities and the reintroduction of the legal right to decent, secure housing for all; slums, overcrowding and homelessness are an indictment on capitalism and a crime against humanity.
6. Set a rent cap: the introduction of a rent cap at 20 percent of minimum wage for all privately rented accommodation, and the scrapping of housing benefit (a subsidy to landlords that has helped to fuel rent rises).
7. Protect existing council housing: the scrapping of all schemes that fuel prices, create shortages and offer subsidies to landlords and developers.
8. Use existing surplus housing stock: the confiscation of all surplus homes and unfinished developments and their transformation into council housing.
9. Provide decent homes for all: the establishment of residents’ management committees to oversee planning and maintenance and ensure that all workers have access to adequate space, necessary amenities and decent facilities, including having usable and pleasant outdoor spaces and community halls.