If I were Prime Minister: I'd do what it takes to build the homes we need

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation

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The Independent Online

If I were Prime Minister I would set a national objective that everyone in our nation should be decently housed.  A warm, safe, affordable home is central to our health and prosperity and it is a failure of politics that so many people do not have one.  I would make an absolute commitment to end the housing crisis in a generation.

To build homes, you have to have land.  We have plenty of land but we make it almost impossible to build homes on most of it – despite the fact that they currently occupy just two percent of England.  I would carry out a rapid review of all land, requiring both brown field sites in public ownership and  bits of green belt with no environmental benefit to be released for house building immediately. I would encourage local authorities to buy land, install basic services then sell it on to people who want to build their own homes. And I’d organise a huge increase in apprenticeships to get our young people into the jobs we need.As a nation, we have become obsessed about owning our homes. This is not really about ensuring we have a home. It is about having an investment that makes us money. As a result we have an entire generation of young people who believe they will never be able to buy. We must build far more homes for rent with longer tenancies that provide real security and do all we can to ensure that house prices stay stable over time.

Far too many of our older people spend time in hospital, not because they need the acute care that hospitals brilliantly provide but because they can’t cope with living on their own at home.

I would provide new, hotel-style accommodation, run by housing associations with care staff, to ensure hospital beds are freed up and people can recover from illness in a caring and supportive environment. I’d also build a new generation of fabulous homes for people whose families are grown up and who want to downsize but who can’t at the moment because they don’t much like the small homes we have.

The bedroom tax is the worst piece of social policy since the war.  It attacks poor people for the crime of being poor and is doing nothing to improve the way we use our homes. I’d abolish it tomorrow.

Away from housing, I would love to see our professional football clubs understand their roots and make it possible for fan ownership.  Community ownership works all over the world. It could work here too. In the arts, I’d have free nation-wide outdoor screenings of concerts and plays to ensure that they are accessible to all.

I’m told that the Houses of Parliament are rotting away. As a first step to ensuring our economy is more balanced across the country I’d move the House of Commons to the North East and the House of Lords to the South West. I’d have 10-5 hours and electronic voting – or to put it another way, I’d bring our democracy, probably kicking and screaming, into the digital age.

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