There’s something everyone has missed in Boris Johnson’s Dudley speech

The Prime Minister’s “New Deal” speech shows the government is waking up the urgency, and political salience, of housing, just as Labour is.

Boris Johnson has delivered his much-anticipated speech “New Deal” speech on the economy this morning, unveiling £5 billion of investment for schools, roads, and other infrastructure projects with the hope of kick-starting the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

There is much to analyse in the Prime Minister’s Dudley address, from the extent to which these pledges are any different to the government’s manifesto spending pledges (answer: not much, but “speeded up”, as Johnson said), the validity of any parallel with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s (again, maybe not a terribly valid comparison) and the details as to how many jobs this investment will really create as millions of people face redundancy in an economy that has shrunk by 20 per cent due to the crisis.

But what was maybe most interesting were Johnson’s comments on housing. Much of his speech discussed building in general terms, on roads, schools and hospitals, but he also promised the most ambitious programme of house-building since the second world war. It corrects, he said, “decade after decade in which we have failed to build enough homes”.

This is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it may be the single biggest change that could meaningfully address the structural problems exposed by the pandemic. As I wrote this morning, deprivation is one of the largest determinants of the severity of the virus’ impact, both economically and in terms of mortality rates, and overcrowded housing is a specific structural issue within this. Yes, building new roads and renovating schools will create jobs and have long-term effects on the connectivity of regional economies and the educational outcomes of the local population. But building new homes is also a way of uprooting one of the fundamental weakness in the UK’s pandemic resilience. If the housing is genuinely affordable, delivered quickly, and accommodates large families without crowding them, this will be one of the best ways of protecting those who have suffered most from this crisis and remain the most vulnerable to its effects.

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Secondly, the Prime Minister spoke of the housing crisis as an “intergenerational injustice”, a rare and forceful acknowledgement of the way a housing shortage resonates not only as an issue of poverty and income inequality, but one of generational inequality.

The recent Labour Together election report revealed a strong consensus on economic issues between the voters the party currently has, and the voters it needs to win back. One of the strongest expressions of this consensus was on housing: from older Brexiteers to young liberals, there was an unexpectedly strong agreement across demographics that the entire housing system “needed fundamental change” the report says, from “far greater access to social housing, action on private rents and landlords, and, strongly amongst town dwellers, a sense that Right to Buy should be halted until more …read more

Source:: New Statesman

      

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