For the past few decades, countries caught in the thrall of neoliberalism (e.g. America, Australia, Canada, UK, Ireland, etc.) have stood by the theory that governments have no place in housing anyone, particularly the poor.
The deliberate flight by these governments from the construction and maintenance of public housing has come home to roost in the COVID-19 pandemic. With people experiencing homelessness waiting literally years-long for rare vacancies in what remains of public housing in these countries, extraordinary safety measures have been needed to bring them in off the streets in the midst of a pandemic.
For the last few months, commentators in Australia have been something of a stand-out in this group of neoliberal dinosaurs as they tried come to grips with failed experiments to entice the private sector to deliver housing to people with low- or no- incomes.
Silence on the subject has been largely the order of the day in the U.S. for example, where activists and academics bemoan the public private partnership status quo that inevitably points to a continued lack of public housing.
But concerned voices in Australia, (if reports in the press are anything to go by) have seized upon the two-fold benefit from revisiting the possibility of building new public housing projects.1 That it would benefit those on waiting lists for truly affordable housing goes without saying. But a constant refrain from Australia over the past months, including from the housing industry itself, has extolled public housing construction as an ideal way of getting a nationally important industry back on its feet.
Now UK voices are joining that chorus. An article in ABOUT Manchester reports on a collaborative endeavour by the Local Government Association, the Association of Retained Council Housing, and the National Federation of ALMOs (Arms Length Management Organizations). The three groups together are responsible for providing services to people who are homeless and for providing socially rented housing.
Like the voices from Australian, this English triumvirate argues that public spending on socially rented housing will help the economy and the construction industry get back on its feet, while also helping people who are facing the biggest risks in the pandemic. Read more in Read in ABOUT Manchester: Spiralling Council Housing Waiting Lists – New Report Reveals.
The full report is available here: Building post-pandemic prosperity