Lunchtime meeting on housing, hosted by Shelter. This is at another hotel, about 200m along the sea front. I walk along with Neil Kinnock, who is very pleased at the success of Glamorgan Cricket Club and commiserates me on the state of Scottish sport!
The Shelter meeting is very interesting for people who are concerned with housing.
Adam Sampson, Director of Shelter speaks first. He says that Labour hasn't done anything for housing until the last two years and that in 2003 there were less new homes built than in any year back to 1926. He welcomes the new Housing Bill which is a "strong piece of legislation" that will drive up standards. He is pleased about Gordon Brown's commitment to the Barker Review (I'll write a post on this sometime) but says that it does not meet rising need as £3.5Bn per annum is needed. He calls for local political leadership to tackle problem housing and he specifically mentions helping owner-occupiers in poverty (usually old people and minorities) to improve their homes.
Poor housing costs the NHS as much as smoking.
Keith Hill, Minister for Housing speaks very well in putting the Government position. He talks about the new Housing Bill first:
* Licensing of HMOs (bedsits)
* Licensing of private landlords by area
* Tenancy deposit scheme (prevents landlord keeping deposits)
* Updates the overcrowding laws (dating from 1935)
He then gives some achievements:
* Cutting rough sleepers by two-thirds
* No homeless families in B&B
* Social housing spending doubled in real terms by 2008
A few figures:
* 10% of UK housing is private rented
* 10% of UK housing is council housing
* 10% of UK housing is housing associations
* about 100,000 homeless in UK of which two thirds are in London
And the future:
* Instructions to councils to "reinforce planning gain"
* Working with Housing Corporation to bring more of the 300,000 flats above shops into use
* "Local Government cannot be allowed to borrow against the PSBR"
A question from the floor on "move on accomodation from hostels" prompts him to say he will look into this area.
Good buffet at this hotel but everyone is off sharpish for Tony Blair's speech. A very interesting and informative meeting which suggests the Government is taking housing seriously and moving to improve both the quality and quantity of housing.