The End of Social Housing: The Housing and Planning Bill

On January 5th, Architects for Social Housing (ASH) and many others will demonstrate against the Housing and Planning Bill, which will pave the way for further mass demolition of social housing.

Pushed by Greg Clark – Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government , the bill will extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing association homes, oblige local powers to sell ‘high-value housing’ and phase out secure tenancies for council tenants. Acting both as tool of division between housing association tenants and legal groundwork for the mass privatisation of council housing, the Housing and Planning Bill is worrying and malicious in equal measure.

Oddly and sinisterly, the Bill will apply planning permission for the regeneration of social housing as ‘brownfield land’ – a category usually reserved for post-industrial wasteland. Council estates with communities within them will be reclassified as waste land. A dramatic increase in the already heightened drive to destroy social housing will unsurprisingly follow. Architects for Social Housing write:

Rather than alleviating the housing ‘crisis’, either by building genuinely affordable homes or by increasing provision of social housing, the Bill seeks to use that crisis for political and financial ends. On the one hand it forces local housing authorities to implement Conservative housing policy, and on the other it takes planning power away from those authorities. Both these hands, the one compelling, the other taking, are wielded by what, if the Bill is passed, will be new and punitive powers of the Secretary of State, not only against the people who rely on social housing for a home, but also against the councils and housing associations that provide them.

There is absolutely nothing in the Bill for the provision of social housing. Instead, it introduces legislation by which existing social housing is to be either sold into private ownership or demolished to make way for new developments. The Bill’s model of home building is driven by state subsidised incentives for private investors that will increase, rather than check, existing speculation on the property market. Under the tattered banner of austerity, the Housing and Planning Bill is in reality legislation for the social cleansing of London in particular, and more generally for the further dismantling of the welfare state by this Conservative government.

An unapologetic act of class warfare, the Housing and Planning Bill will push social housing tenants further into precarity. Although a demonstration in central London will not be enough, it will hopefully provide a spark to again reinvigorate the drive for housing security and resistance. The Carpenters, Guinness and Aylesbury estate occupations catalysed the reclamation of social housing. The Housing and Planning Bill will mean this reclamation continues or we lose our social housing altogether.

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