All Government action on housing is directed at selling homes. Even the adjustment to planning regulations to allow conversion of derelict office blocks simply lets big developers convert them into flats to sell. This makes money for developers and for money-lenders, but does not solve the problem of lack of affordable homes. And it is expanding debt, creating more of the sub-prime mortgages that precipitated the last economic collapse and meant banks had to have a billion-pound bailout from the taxpayer. People taking the Government’s Help To Buy are mortgaging themselves to the limit of their income; and when interest rates go up, as they are bound to do, they will find themselves unable to cope, being repossessed and losing everything they have.
Britain’s total mortgage debt is now over £1.2 trillion – three-quarters of total GDP – and BORROWING TO BUY Is NOT reducing our national debt. The only way to tackle the housing crisis is for local communities to raise their own money to buy in empty sites and empty buildings, convert them and own them to keep them permanently affordable, says the Abandon Empty Office Buildings campaign. “We have already raised £150,000 in investments in our Community Share and this is a way for homes to be owned on behalf of the community, and keep banks, with their dangerous tricks, out of the equation,” says Tony Crofts, one of AEOB’s founders. “We need to go on building this fund to enable us to buy and rescue buildings that are capable of producing good, secure, long-term tenancies for families.”
“Stonesfield Community Trust, in Oxfordshire, has only had two rent rises in twenty years, and is now letting at below-council rents. It has paid all its debts and its still looking towards a £200,000 surplus to put into further social benefit for its village. This has proved it is possible for a voluntary non-profit organisation to make affordable rents wash their own face. We want to achieve the same for Bristol. We aim to work with Bristol Energy Co-op, which is aiming to make Bristol self-supporting for energy generation by spreading photo-voltaic panels over an increasing number of houses. Localising the economy is the answer to reducing the economic power of the big bullies.” Go to AEOBhousepeople.org.uk or Tel. 0117 9265931 to learn how to make an interest-bearing investment of £50 to £20,000 for Bristol’s future.