It’s a reasonable time to be distracted. After all, Boris Johnson is trying to suspend parliament to push through his no-deal Brexit. But while backing calls to #StopTheCoup and launch a #GeneralStrike, it’s important for us all to remember this isn’t just about Brexit.
Through austerity, the Conservative-led government has decimated our public services. And we are in the middle of a housing crisis. Spiralling rents, Universal Credit, and a lack of council houses has led to record numbers of homeless people.
But Jeremy Corbyn has a proposal to address the crisis; a proposal that shows exactly why we need to take action – and why we need a Labour government.
Taxing second homes
In 2018, record numbers of rough sleepers were reported in London. But the capital has 67,000 houses which aren’t permanently occupied. Of these, 22,481 properties were recorded as ‘long-term empty’ – i.e. they’ve been empty for over six months. A further 44,641 are second homes.
Speaking to the Hackney Gazette, Corbyn described the situation as “offensive”, saying:
While social housing waiting lists grow and first time buyers struggle to get on the ladder it is offensive to learn there are just under 23,000 properties in London sitting empty for more than six months.
And he summed up the cause of the housing crisis:
The housing crisis is caused by the few who use houses as investment opportunities. This influx of large sums of money has seen prices sky rocket for ordinary people.
He also stated exactly what a Labour government would do to tackle the problem:
Houses are homes, not assets. We need to clamp down on buy-to-leave by charging a levy on second homes and strengthening councils powers over empty properties, as well as building one million genuinely affordable homes.
Not just London
But it’s not just London where second homes are causing a housing crisis. In popular tourist getaways such as Cornwall, second-home ownership has devastated whole areas and priced local people out of staying in their own communities.
Cornwall currently receives funding from the EU due to being one of the poorest regions in Europe. The average house price is £232,618. But wages are low, with Unite describing Cornwall as the “low-paid capital of the country”. Meanwhile, one in 20 houses sit empty.
“How to pay no council tax on your second home”
But for the wealthy elite, the loophole is far from being closed. In fact, as recently as July, the Telegraph ran an article with the headline:
How to pay no council tax on your second home – saving thousands of pounds a year.
This headline says it all. It shows exactly why we need a Labour government. And it shows why so many in the mainstream media are so scared of a Corbyn premiership.
So yes, we do all need to be out on the streets. Yes, we need to fight against Johnson’s threat to our democracy. But we also need to make sure that fight isn’t just about Brexit. It’s about the years of austerity, it’s about the sick and disabled people who’ve had their lives ruined, it’s about the number of homeless people, and the numbers using foodbanks. This is about the fact the Tories have run this country into the ground, making it a playground for the rich while ordinary people starve.
So let’s stop the coup. Let’s go on strike. But let’s make sure that all of the issues above are central to any and all action that we take.
Featured image via Wikimedia/Sophie Brown
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