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Letter – Coalition Government to blame over Hackney Decent Homes shortage

Frampton Park tower block

uPVC windows were installed on Frampton Park Estate as part of the Decent Homes Programme

Your latest article [March 2013] ‘Council fails to meet own Decent Homes target’ cannot pass without comment.

Firstly, is it not obvious that a programme that suddenly loses around 40% of its anticipated funding is going to struggle to be completed on target?

Secondly, social housing accounts for around half of the total housing stock of Hackney; this is twice the London average and well above the national average of 17.5% .

It was not until the 2000’s that a government made a real effort to improve social housing and provide funding to councils to carry out the necessary works. The Coalition government wasted no time in making sure that this funding became completely unreliable.

So the quote by the Conservative councillor on the state of social housing is interesting on quite a few points:

1) As it is a Conservative-led coalition government that has cut the funding’.

2) After 1979, the Thatcher’s government dramatically reduced the building of social housing. None of the subsequent governments significantly reversed this policy, meaning that, while between 1949 and 1979 almost 4.2m publicly funded homes were built, from 1980 to 2010 the figure is less than 1m.

The private sector output has remained roughly the same between 1949 and 2010, resulting in the current housing shortage and specifically an affordable/social
housing shortage.

3) On the subject of ‘rabbit hutches’: the Parker Morris Standards for minimum space requirements (introduced for social housing in 1961 and all housing in 1969) were abolished by the Thatcher government in 1981, since they were seen as too restrictive and expensive for developers.

It was not until 2006 that Ken Livingstone commissioned a study into housing sizes which eventually translated into a “Parker Morris +10%” standard in the London Plan 2011 .The rest of the UK is still waiting for any binding targets of this kind.

According to EU housing statistics, a typical new home in the UK is now 55% smaller than in the 1930’s. In Denmark, the average newly built home is 80% bigger than in the UK. It appears that small homes are not exclusive to Hackney.

Ulrike Wahl
Pembury Estate


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