Labor Party Conference: Bristol tenant denounces ‘shocking and immoral housing scandal’

A Bristol tenant gave an impassioned speech at the Labor Party conference in Brighton calling for a radical change in housing policy.

Laura Hallsworth, a member of the Bristol East Labor Party and ACORN community union, described the current system in which housing allowances were paid to private landlords as a “shocking scandal”.

She said it was “obscene” for tenants to pay off the mortgages of wealthy landlords and said the system had been skewed in favor of the “super rich”.

For the latest news on the Bristol housing crisis click here

Shadow Housing Secretary Lucy Powell said Labor was “the party of landlords and tenants” while the Tories were “the party of speculators and developers”.

Opening a conference debate on housing and transport, Ms Powell said a Labor government would “solve the housing crisis with a new regulation” for housing, adding: “The Tories see housing as a commodity, to be traded , to profit, being part of an investment portfolio, a retirement pot, not as the foundation of stable lives and life chances.

But Ms Hallsworth told the thousands of delegates attending the conference that the Labor Party’s motion did not go far enough to address the issues people like her face.

She said: “I would just like to mention my lovely mum Hazel who works as a debt counselor at a homeless prevention charity. You wouldn’t believe the dire situation people find themselves in and the struggles she is facing. leads every day to prevent the most marginalized and the poorest in our society from losing their homes.

“The stress of it literally keeps her awake at night and the work increases week by week, but the most important thing I learned from my mother is something very specific.

“This is a shocking scandal that no one seems to talk about and is that our taxes go straight into the pockets of homeowners through housing allowances. can’t afford that – those who work full time, I might add – these are paid benefits that you and I pay. “

Her voice filled with emotion, Ms Hallsworth continued, “We are literally paying homeowners’ mortgages. It is obscene. It does not mean anything. Housing is not a commodity. It is not a way for the privileged to consolidate their wealth and get richer.

“Frankly, this motion does not go far enough. The establishment’s housing stock must be taken over. It is immoral that so few have so much.

“We need rent ceilings. We need radical socialist policies and we need a planned economy that works to give people dignity.

“Good quality housing is dignity. We can’t control what we don’t own. We allow foreign oligarchs to hide their money in empty housing. Look at London, it’s everywhere. It is a scandal that nobody talks about.

“There is a myth that there is not enough housing for our needs. The whole system has been tampered with by the super rich. We must be radical. We must take back what is ours. It makes no sense to tinker around the edges.

“My student landlord owned streets and streets of houses in Liverpool and let me tell you he didn’t care about us tenants at all as long as we paid off the mortgage. We must be radical here!”

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Labor Party on Housing

Ms Powell said Labor would set up “a construction agency” to “assess, repair and finance, then certify all high-rise buildings” to prevent another Grenfell disaster.

She also said Labor “cannot continue” with Right to Buy, adding: “I see no contradiction in the fact that we are also promoting home ownership – not for more homeowners or second homes, but for ordinary workers.

“At the heart of it all is bold action to reestablish the link between wages and housing costs, and to tackle the thorny issues of the quality, affordability and security of private rentals, by putting an end to sleep in the streets and to evictions without fail. “

Councilor Phil Waker, of the Dagenham and Rainham Labor Party, welcomed calls for more social housing for rent, which he said would leave people with money to spend.

On affordable housing, Mr Waker said, “I know people often have good intentions when they use it, but it can be up to 80% of market rents.

“And even truly affordable means different things to different people.

“And when I tell the folks in Dagenham that we are building apartments for affordable rent from £ 240 to £ 280 a week, they either stare at you or get angry or burst out laughing.

“Affordable has been described to me as an Orwellian term in the way it’s not used.

“Do you know what I would like to see the Labor movement do?” Ban the word affordable when it comes to housing.

Lisa Phillips, of Warwick and Leamington Labor Party, said: “I’m 27, I’m a single mom, I have a two year old little boy, I’m working full time, I’m about to have my universal credit cut and I’m six weeks away from being evicted from my house.

Ms Phillips said her council had informed her that he was unlikely to be able to find her social housing, adding that there were “hundreds of thousands” of other people in her situation.

She said: “I am here to say that we have to do better. We need more green social housing, we need to cap private rents for properties, we need to take back control of real estate developers, we need to take a stand. “

The union representatives approved a motion which, among other things, called for the councils to be fully funded to deliver the construction of 150,000 social rental housing units each year, including 100,000 social housing units.

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