Freethinkeruk’s Weblog

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Archive for the tag “housing”

Single Mothers/Single Parents

The following could equally apply to single fathers of course but most often it is single mothers whether through choice or of fathers not having the guts or willingness to shoulder their responsibilities that are the concern of this blog.

I have long pondered the societal problem of young women who find themselves pregnant either deliberately or by ‘accident’ through unprotected sex and when deciding to go ahead and give birth expect society to pick up the bill and pay an enormous cost in welfare benefits for many years. The State provides ‘the morning after pill’ for that moment of panic next day when the thought of what if comes to mind, failing which counselling is available when another choice, again provided freely by the State, of abortion is an option.

If despite those options the decision to continue with the pregnancy is made then we, society at large, will have to support both mother and child for at least 18 years maybe more if the offspring goes to university. We cannot deprive the child of equal opportunity. Single parents usually jump the housing queue which is grossly unfair on those who patiently wait but frankly there is little we can do about that apart from building sufficient homes which successive governments have been unwilling to do but that’s another story. To get pregnant is a fast track to your own home is a well known route for many young women as is not having to bother to get a job for many, many, years. It cannot be right that choosing to have a baby is rewarded with the security to play on Snap chat or Instagram while everyone else is working to pay for it or is actively seeking work.

A possible solution occurred to me recently when feeling disgusted at the fees now charged to university students, why not a similar scheme for single parents? So yes we’ll have to provide a home, yes, we’ll have to financially support the mother and child BUT when the child reaches five years we will expect and demand that the mother seeks at least part time employment and half the earnings will be taken back in extra taxation. At aged eleven we will expect full time working and the same half taken in tax as during this time benefits will continue as before which eliminates a lot of paper work while at the same time providing incentive. When the child or children reach independence then extra tax taken at say, 5% of net income taken for the rest of working life as the hundreds of thousands it has cost is unlikely to ever be repaid in full. Going after fathers who fail to pay is for another time.

I welcome comments and suggestions.

 

 

Open Letter to Older Voters

As an ‘older voter’ myself I feel qualified to write this open letter to my contemporaries many of whom, it seems, tend to become more right wing and vote Tory in elections. Why this should be is somewhat puzzling and the purpose of this missive.

Older people it is generally recognised tend to be more set in their ways but political leanings fly in the face of this generalisation. Could it be that as life expectancy diminishes resistance to change increases along with a desire for security as represented by continuity, money and assets? If so and I can think of no other reason, this is illusory.

People of my generation, those born in the 40’s 50’s and early 60’s were indeed very fortunate in that during their early and middle years they had security of housing, they bought houses or were more or less assured of a Council house for life. They had good ongoing health care from the newly formed NHS, good and free education up to and beyond a university degree and perhaps most importantly, employment was all but guaranteed as soon as ceasing formal education. For those who trod the craft or trade route apprenticeships were long, meaningful, detailed and effective training with a long experienced time served craftsman leading to a worthwhile and life long well paid career.

In the early 1980s under Tory Prime Minister Thatcher, the big con trick of the Right to Buy Scheme was started, not because she thought it would be ‘nice’ but because of the ideology that people with a mortgage are de facto in debt, heavily in debt and that means over a 25 plus year period they will be handing over a huge amount of their earnings to Tory friends, the bankers. In addition people whose home may be at risk if they fail to make the repayments become servile and compliant and unless pushed to the limit will not go on strike for better pay or conditions; in fact will even accept a cut in income without much dissent. As more and more of the social housing was sold off, much of it incidentally ending up in the hands of Tory landlords, an obvious shortage of homes was created leading to ever increasing house prices that is unabated to this day.

Much has been written about housing, including some of my blogs here, so I wont go deeper into it except that the dash for home ownership resulted in and was encouraged by not only the Tories but also the Blair government, a slight feeling of superiority by owners over renters. It was interesting at the time to see some of my friends who had voted Labour all their life until getting a mortgage, almost overnight becoming Tories. Little did they know that they would be working harder, longer, for less and that it would eventually require two of them to work to pay the one debt. Mortgages today can now stretch beyond a lifetime into the next generation; the transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the rich elite gathers pace.

No one likes to be proved wrong or admit to being duped and so it is natural for most to close their minds to even that possibility, to cling to that superior feeling that brings comfort which by default means a resistance to change. This is how older voters come to be more right wing and how they come to vote for a Tory government and their ‘austerity’ that only applies to the working and middle classes but not them.

Wait a minute though my older voting friends! Most of you will have children and grandchildren perhaps even great grandchildren, what of them?  Perhaps you are thinking you can leave them your house albeit split between however many offspring you have, less tax and fees etc. so they’ll still need a mortgage and a big one with prices increasing way above inflation. The same people that made you pay roughly twice the sale price for your home will happily do the same for your descendants. These same people also want the destruction of our NHS for their profit, do you want your descendants to have to pay for private health care or go without and do you want them to be denied the education they would like on the grounds of cost? Of course you don’t but to ensure their safety you have to admit to yourself, no one else, that you were duped and make the changes necessary in the polling booth.

 

 

 

 

 

UK Housing Prices & Inheritance

The Governor of The Bank of England has again warned of the risk to our faltering small recovery and of the need to build more houses or the increasing likely hood of raising interest rates to dampen down house price inflation. Also in the news is the widening gap between the rich and the relatively poor.

Political attention is likely to focus on the house price boom because for politicians this is the easy option but this is allied to increasing inequality of not just wealth but also inequality of opportunity. The main cause of inequality is inheritance and if this were tackled the housing inflation problem would largely solve itself. Many of the last generation bought homes at more or less sensible prices and have seen their value increase many times over the general inflation rates, an increase that is not earned. When they perhaps down size or die they can pass on to their children large sums which their offspring can use to buy their own homes; homes that without this unearned windfall they could not otherwise contemplate. This of course helps to both maintain and fan the fires of house inflation.

In addition to passing on their inflated homes, the wealthy also can afford to give their children the best start in life with all the advantages that money can bring and bequeath their accumulated funds that enable the offspring to acquire even more and so the cycle continues. Apart from a few exceptional individuals the poor will remain poor and indeed, become even more deprived as wealth becomes more concentrated in the hands of a small minority. The result of this imbalance is that the nation as a whole will lose out on ideas, businesses and social benefits due to the suppression of the less well off who cannot make or even recognise the best use of their talents or from lack of capital to advance their ideas.

What we need, but is at present anyway, unlikely to be done, is a strong inheritance tax which some may say is even punitive. If someone builds up huge wealth there is no reason that he/she should not enjoy a rich lifestyle for as long as they live but equally there is no reason why their children should continue to enjoy that lifestyle simply by being born into that family. Money raised from this taxation could then be used to improve the conditions of the many and provide start up funding for brilliant new ideas and enterprises.

There would be many arguments against a firm inheritance tax and it’s implementation would be difficult but not impossible. How it could be done is what we pay politicians for.

 

 

The Cameron Cancer

Would you pay £47.51 for a chicken? Of course not! If the cost of chickens had increased at the same rate the same rate as house rentals over the last 30 years that is what you’d be paying.

A majority of people believe that benefits should be cut, they have swallowed the Tory lies. Housing benefit rose by £1 billion last year and you are lead to believe that it went to the lazy workshy or to single mothers or to drug addicts. In fact 98% went to people who are actually in work! The continuing shortage of housing and landlords greedily ripping off the State are the reasons behind this incredible increase; to cut benefits is to tackle the problem from completely the wrong end.

Cameron’s answer is to compel thousands of our fellow citizens to move hundreds of miles from their homes, their friends and families, and to drag children away from their schools. Under 25’s to be forced to go home to their parents after further education or training rather than starting employment (if they can find any) on low wages because they simply can’t afford a roof over their head. This is the economics of the madhouse.

The arrogance of this extremely wealthy Prime Minister beggars belief, in that he thinks that by kicking away the crutch of a cripple it will make him walk. He cannot countenance the real solution as this would possibly affect his and his rich friends grasp on the national wealth. Embark on a massive house building program which not only employs building workers but also manufacturing by way of the building materials but also every new home will need carpets, curtains, furniture, the list is almost endless, creating even more jobs. Rents to be controlled by law and the National Minimum Wage increased substantially to catch up with what it should be worth. This would also put more of the burden onto employers rather than the tax payers.

It was announced today that government borrowing for the month of May increased by £2 billion more than expected due mainly to lower tax receipts. What the hell do they expect? 2.6 million out of work and 1.4 million in part time work wishing they were in full time employment and therefore not paying any or very little income tax. This regime is a cancer spreading over our land and the only therapy that will work is to cut it out and soon.

Poverty… Why?

A report out recently shows that the gap between the richest in Britain and the poorest has widened. I can’t say that it surprised me. In the usual and expected politician double speak Gordon Brown said “The report illustrates starkly that despite a levelling-off of inequality in the last decade we still have much further to go.” No Gordon, it didn’t say a ‘levelling off’ it said ‘widened’. We have indeed got further to go, in fact we actually need to make a start.

Those that know me often say that I lay the blame for almost all of the ills in this country at the feet of Margaret Thatcher, including this severe winter. Well, she did waste the windfall of North Sea oil and closed down 300 years supply of coal but that’s another story. What Thatcher did, very cleverly, was to break the strength of the Trade Unions and at the same time make the working population believe that this was a good thing. She then set about selling off most of our publicly owned assets such as our gas (remember ‘Tell Sid?), electricity, water and railways. She knew perfectly well that shares would largely end up with the financial institutions but fooled many into believing that they were ‘part of a share holding democracy’. Above all she put the notion of individualism, get what you can for yourself and the devil take the hindmost into the national psyche.  In 1997 the nation with a collective sigh of relief elected New Labour with most not realising that Tony Blair was but a toned down Thatcher with a smiling face. The result being that the inequality gap has widened still further.

The Labour Party was originally brought into being by the Trade Unions to fight for the rights of it’s members and to bring about a more equal and fair society and forced through enormous benefits, the National Health Service being just one example. The (New) Labour Party of today has morphed into just another wing of the capitalist system that lies at the root of all our ills. The budget of yesterday, despite the crying need to balance the books, made it easier to buy a house and saddle the working population with a life long mortgage around their necks and thus restricting their ability to dissent.  In addition this reliance on house prices ever increasing, played a large part in the recent economic crash and yet the Chancellor encourages more of the same.

So is it ‘Time for Change’ and bring back the Tories? Definitely not, New Labour is still the lessor of the evils but an evil non-the-less and although it’s perhaps worth voting for Lib Dems where they have a chance, real change will only come about when the people accept the hardest thing of all and realise that they have been duped for several generations and rise up with one voice and demand a new way.

Here We Go Again!

The housing market is on the move again of that there is little doubt and of course along with it the cost of buying a home is rising albeit slowly at the present time. The highest level of unemployment in my region stands at 6% which of course is not much fun for those without work but it does mean that 94% have jobs. Car production is rising once more and bankers bonus payouts are still obscene.

All this does not mean that the recession is over but points to it at least bottoming out. The massive bill to stave off the worst of the global economy crash will still have to be paid over the next couple of decades and will have some negative impact on most of us. Most of us being the ones who played no part in the disgraceful financial gambling of the past ten to twenty years although most of us were a part of the rampant consumerism that gripped the developed world.

A few minor inconveniences have been put in place to curb some of the excesses of the financial traders but by and large as the recovery gets under way it will be business as usual and so setting us up for a repeat performance in another decade or so down the line. Bankers will be making fortunes out of the future labour of ordinary people not even born yet, houses will be purchased as investments and not as homes to live in, industry will again expand and add to the climatic pollution that is already out of control.

This global catastrophe presented the World and I suggest, the UK in particular, with a golden opportunity for change. That chance has already been squandered and we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and the next time may not contain within it opportunity for change.

It Could Have Been Better

So the pre-Budget announcements are over and quite obviously the 2.5% reduction in VAT costing around £12.5billion will be largely wasted. It will do little if anything to stimulate the economy that’s even if traders pass it on and don’t simply raise their prices slightly to boost flagging profit margins.

It could have been better spent. We have around a million people who are homeless or living in sub standard housing. Freeing up Government owned land for social housing and giving local councils perhaps more compulsory purchase powers it would be possible to easily build a home for £100,000 which means that 125,000 additional houses could be built. The employment derived from this would be enormous and not just builders but all the manufacturing of materials, most of which would be British made. Add to this all the carpets, curtains, white goods, garden equipment etc purchased as people moved in and the stimulus to our economy would be huge.

The important part of the above is ‘social housing,’ houses for rent and permanently for rent thus replenishing the housing stock following the disastrous ‘Right to Buy’ policy of Thatcher and continued by successive governments. It would have the added bonus of helping house prices to stabilise at a more sensible level and help to prevent a future credit binge based on ever increasing property prices.

Housing, it’s not all bad news.

House prices continue to fall in the UK with London showing it’s first fall in over eight years. Bad news if you’ve bought a house expecting it to increase in value, above the rate of inflation, indefinitely. If though, you bought a house to be your home to live in, which is what they are really for, what difference does it make? If you need to move then the cost of the house you wish to buy will also have gone down by approximately the same percentage rate as yours. If the current financial crisis continues and it looks set to do so for a year or two at least, then house prices may stabilise at a sensible and sustainable level. It’s not likely, unfortunately, that the current government will accept my suggestion and nationalise all land (see).

Perhaps and I won’t hold my breath, regulations will be brought in requiring a hefty deposit to be put down when buying a home and a limit on lending of say, three times annual income. In the case of a couple buying, based on the highest single earner only, thus removing the financial block on having babies. These regulations would have the added benefit of keeping prices on a more even keel.

The talks currently still under way in the USA, as to how to prop up the banks with how many $billions are going to do little for mortgaged to the hilt buyers in the US and in the wider world. ‘Trickle down’ has never worked as we all know too well after the Thatcher years. How about at least some of these now almost countless billions going to the mortgage payers who are in trouble, by way of installment interest relief. It would help them and help the wider economy and if the greedy bankers could possibly learn the lesson it would help to stabilise the banks as well.

Oh well, dream on.

Housing Mania Continues

There is a saying that “if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got”.

It seems that the Government hasn’t noticed that we are in a financial mess brought about in the main by our borrowing money mostly to buy houses that we can’t afford. So what do they do? They make it easier to buy homes and build up more debt. The mind boggles, well mine does anyway.

House prices on average have fallen by around 10% over the last year. If you bought a house in the expectation that it’s value would increase above inflation indefinitely you’re in trouble or could be. If you bought your house as a home to live in then apart from a likely rise in the mortgage rate, you’re OK. Housing values falling back to a more realistic level is a good thing bringing some sanity back into the market. Today’s announcements of stopping Stamp Duty for twelve months, interest free loans for five years on new houses will indeed stimulate in some degree the building industry and the housing market. It will also reinvigorate the rise in house prices and back on the treadmill we go. In addition ‘rescuing’ defaulting home buyers by local authorities part buying their homes and renting that part back to them only serves to trap the occupants in debt.

Yes people need homes and yes, the building industry needs stimulation particularly as so many other industries depend on it’s activity. The huge sums of money that Government is about spend is a short term, short sighted, fix and will, in the long term be largley wasted. This money should be spent by building homes for rent (see) and thus adding the same stimulation to the builders, providing homes and thereby avoiding yet another debt spiral resulting in yet another ‘credit crunch.’

Credit Crunch & Housing

Due to the shortage of finance within the banking and building society sector and the rising interest rates, the building of new homes is slowing dramatically. The big building companies such as Barrett and Bovis are cutting back on developments and even leaving the interior completion of homes until sales are agreed.

Many people will soon have their mortgage rates raised dramatically when their fixed term agreements come to an end. Coupled with the down-turn in the economy and the general feeling of financial unease it is inevitable that a lot of distressed home buyers will find their houses repossessed, a fact confirmed by the Bank of England yesterday. The plan and hope of the Government to build 3million new homes by 2020 begins to fade.

However, if the Government could but see it, this can be a moment of opportunity. Land is the biggest cost for homes but the Government holds an enormous amount, particularly the Ministry of Defence, that just lies unused. If they gave (yes, gave) some of this land, where appropriate, via local authorities, to build homes for rent and not for buying then several things would result. Firstly and most obvious, there would be more homes for people to live in rather than a make money investment and with more home buyers becoming dispossessed there will be an even greater need for rentable homes. It will keep the building industry in a healthy condition providing employment and training ready for the inevitable but eventual upturn. A huge amount of employment depends on new housing, not just the suppliers of building materials but furniture, white goods, carpeting, decorating products and so on. Another benefit is that a vibrant public rented sector would put the brakes on rampant house prices in the future making for a more stable market.

Yes the Government would have to give financial assistance to the local authorities but this would be a lot cheaper in the long run than coping with the costs of unemployment, family break-ups, paying for people in hostels, B & B’s etc. and in addition keep on target for 2020.

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