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If you want to build a better society you need to build better homes

Mirror logo Mirror 12/07/2019 Jason Beattie
a large brick building with grass and trees: Forecourt of a council housing block in the UK © Getty Images/iStockphoto Forecourt of a council housing block in the UK

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

In the end almost every important domestic issue comes back to housing.

If you want to know why the economy is skewed towards the rich, why social mobility has stalled, why opportunities are curtailed and why health inequalities persist it is impossible to discuss any of these themes without reference to housing.

Having a decent home to live in should be a basic right but there are more than one million people on the waiting list for social housing.

Rent takes up 40% of our income on average, the highest in Europe where the average is 28%.

This consumes money which could, for instance, be spent on purchasing better quality food.

It is no accident the poorest people have the poorest diets.

a large building: The rich are benefiting from the failure to reform council tax © Provided by Reach Publishing Services Limited The rich are benefiting from the failure to reform council tax

Those on low-income are more likely to live in low quality homes with short-term tenancies.

A survey in 2016 found 60% of Londoners who rent were living in homes with unacceptable conditions such as damp or vermin.

Lower income families tend to live in areas with higher levels of air pollution and fewer opportunities to play outside either because of a lack of green spaces or high traffic densities.

This in turn puts pressure on the NHS and affects school performance.

Gallery: Revealed: The UK's easiest cities to buy a house in (Love Money)

Studies have shown that people who live on streets with high levels of traffic are less likely to interact with their neighbours.

Short term tenancies mean families in rental accommodation end up moving more often, disrupting schooling and fracturing social networks.

If you live in an area without decent public transport and cannot afford a car your chances of finding work or studying are more limited which curtails social mobility.

  a car parked on a city street: Those on low incomes are more likely to live in areas with high pollution levels © Provided by Reach Publishing Services Limited Those on low incomes are more likely to live in areas with high pollution levels

We are still living with the legacy of Thatcher’s right to buy that saw council homes sold off but the receipts used to cut taxes (and thereby used as bribes to keep the Tories in office) rather than build new homes.

Many of these properties were then sold to private landlords who rent them out at higher costs which we subsidise through housing benefit at a cost of £23billion a year.

It is hardly surprising that the lack of social housing has driven up rents in the private sector.

A study by Shelter this week says private renting is unaffordable for working families on low wages in two-thirds of the country.

Help to Buy, which has so far cost £12billion, had the perverse effect of stimulating demand while doing nothing to address supply.

Wealth is accumulated in the hands of property and land owners but our local tax system is based on outdated property values rather than wealth and therefore entrenches inequality.

There are few more crucial issues and few of such importance which have been neglected by successive governments.

We are our on 16th Housing Minister in 18 years.

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