Do you have a touchstone issue this election? An issue that will ultimately determine how you vote? Will you vote Labour because you trust it with the NHS? Or Conservative because “it’s the economy, stupid” at any cost? Or Green because “if you don’t sort out the environment then nothing else matters”?
My touchstone issue this time is housing which, if you think about it, is ultimately about the environment. Isn’t a house the most fundamental human environment of all? And in a society where all sorts of silly senses of entitlement scream to be absorbed into the ever growing pantheon of human rights, the cry for adequate decent housing should sit just behind clean water and decent food.
Let me be clear, a couple on £60,000 a year who are sharing a parental home in a posh part of London are not, as one newspaper claimed recently, “homeless”. This is what I mean by spurious rights. No-one has the “right” to own their own home or live in a particular place, even if it is in the catchment area for an oversubscribed primary school. What everyone does have the right to is a home which provides adequate protection against the elements, is in a good state of repair and is affordable in terms of running costs and rent or mortgage. They also have the right freedom from harassment by neighbours, landlords or others.
It’s not just the house – it’s the whole environment. Is the street clean and well-lit? Is the neighbourhood safe? Do they have access to open spaces and recreational facilities? Are there good shops, health centres, schools and other amenities? Is there clean air or is it full of particulates and greenhouse gasses?
The physical and social environment affects everything – our physical and mental health; out life chances and our ability to flourish; the future of our society, our species and our planet. Environment is everything. We will, therefore:
Build more housing and encourage the conversion of existing buildings to provide for a variety of household types
Promote a mixture of private, public, social and supported housing, in every community.
Work to improve existing housing stock by establishing and enforce basic and gradually rising standards for rented property
Get rid of the bedroom tax. If we want people to downsize (a perfectly laudable aim), then we will look at ways of increasing the amount of suitable accommodation. We will encourage people to move, but we won’t punish them for wanting to stay put.
Encourage an increase in the capture of solar power on private houses and commercial premises. Stop wasting money on inefficient and non cost effective renewables. Build safe, modern nuclear power stations.
Did I say thet we’d build more houses? We’ll build more houses.