Housing

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The word ‘home’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the place where one lives permanently’. Also listed as a meaning is ‘a place where something flourishes’.

Having a home means having a place to live, which provides security and certainty in life. It is also a place to make one’s own, somewhere to feel safe and provides a location in a community in which one can built relationships.

Christians on the Left believes that every member of society should have a secure home. When Jesus instructed us to pray ‘give us today our daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11), he was telling us that God is interested in providing for our basic material needs. Security of home is among the most fundamental human needs. Truly loving our neighbours as ourselves means we should care for such needs, and do all we can to help others meet them.

However, the housing market in the UK now appears to be failing for a very significant proportion of British people. For many, security of home, or even the existence of home at all, is elusive. This is a major factor in promoting the continued growth of economic inequality and has contributed to the decline of social mobility in the UK in recent decades.

House_Building.pngWhile demand for housing has increased sharply in recent years, supply has not kept up, putting huge upward pressure on prices. Fewer than 150,000 new homes have been built in every year since the recession, and local authority home building has almost completely dried up, reaching below a mere 2,000 per year[1], meaning that many have no access to affordable housing.

According to the Resolution Foundation, only 64.1% of British households now own their own home outright or with a mortgage[2]. This is the lowest rate for thirty years, fully seven percentage points lower than the peak of 2004, and looks set to fall even further as those without savings and on lower incomes are priced out of the property market.

With home ownership increasingly out of reach, and with the sharp decline in social housing since the 1980s cutting off a valuable source of low-rent homes, many are forced to turn to the private rental sector. This, however, is often very expensive, and comes with the risk of unscrupulous and potentially exploitative landlords. Rental costs have increased significantly in recent years, even as inflation has been at record lows[3].Inflation_Rates.png

And for those for whom renting is not possible, the situation is even worse. The latest government figures show that 14,420 households in England are statutorily homeless[4], while an estimated 4,134 individuals slept rough every night last year – well over twice the number in 2010[5] (and even then, some charities believe the actual figure may be significantly higher[6]).

It is clear that there are deep problems with housing and security of home in the UK. It is only by taking bold action that such issues will be addressed. We desperately need a government that will increase construction, with an emphasis on low-rent council housing to increase access to affordable home ownership. It is also essential that tenants are given robust protections and rights to prevent exploitation and insecurity.

The one party promising these actions is Labour. A secure homes guarantee is at the centre of the party’s programme for government. This means building 200,000 new homes a year – half of them affordable council homes – a major increase on construction from the past decade. Private renters will also benefit enormously from rent controls, secure tenancies and a charter of tenants’ rights.

While it is essential that radical action is taken on housing on a human level, we must not lose sight of our higher purpose: in John 14:2, Jesus talks about his Father’s house having many rooms, saying that he has prepared a place there for his followers. The use of home as an image here is powerful, demonstrating how important security of home is for God and indicating that our ultimate home means permanent residence in the presence and the love of God.

We know the end of the story. We know God’s ultimate intention is for everyone to have a home. Surely this should inspire us to hope for a government acting to bring about security of home in our society, here and now.



[6] http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/Homelessness%20briefing%202016%20EXTERNAL.pdf


 

For members of Christians on the Left, look out for our new discussion series later in the year, focusing the debate around issues such as homelessness, housing, immigration, foreign policy, war, trident and more. The "Truth to Power" Series will focus on how our faith should guide the principles underpinning government policy, and how we should speak the Truth to those with Power. Suitable for use in a small group, at home, in the pub on your tablet (or even on your own), this thought provoking series will also feature discussion guides and additional resources.

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