Thursday, June 06, 2013

The housing problem

Comfortable decent housing is probably the one basic need which, were it properly satisfied, contributes to good emotional and mental health. The fact remains that such a happy situation only applies to the small to the small minority of the population who have the means to buy beautiful homes. The vast majority suffer a housing problem of one sort of another, whether it be living in inner-city slums or soulless council schemes or being plagued by the fears and insecurities caused by trying to pay the rent or pay off a mortgage. Housing is one problem of capitalism which has been a constant source of difficulty and part and parcel of working class life. Few members of our class escape some aspect of housing trouble.

We read that fewer homes are being built leaving thousands of  people frozen out of the property market. Last year fewer than 15,000 homes were built. It is predicted the number of under-35s renting from private landlords will overtake those with a mortgage by 2014. By 2020, it is estimated more than 50% of Scottish young people will live in private rented homes. It is estimated 465,000 new homes are needed in Scotland by 2035 to meet demand. However, the build rates highlighted today point to a potential shortfall in the region of 140,000. Fewer homes are being built now than in the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The first fallacy to dismiss is the belief that “housing shortage” is the beginning and end of the problem. This is not the source of the problem nor the full story. The facts tell us the industry suffers many problems which have been related to one thing; the contradictions and conflicts of the system of capitalism. If the lack of houses are a product of the inability of the building industry to supply to us the housing we want, then this is because the building industries are clearly responding instead to the realities of capitalism and not to the needs and demands of people.

When socialism is established the people in a local area will make decisions affecting that area specifically, the people in a certain region will make decisions for that region and everyone will make global decisions. When socialism is established it will have two important projects concerning housing. One will be to find homes for all those who have none. It would have to be decided, how many, what type or style, what materials they will be made from and how much of each is required. Obviously, with this will go the many and various decisions concerning town planning, roads, recreational facilities, shopping centres (though we may not call it shopping then). This will entail vast changes from top to bottom in every part of society. Nowhere will this be apparent more than over how we group in communities. Cities as we know them to day will probably no longer exist as people won’t want or need to be condensed in a particular area. Whenever there is a need for a new type of house, a town or a building for the use of the community, architects will submit plans and models which can be voted on by the community as a whole in a given area. Though there may be competition between the various architects and planners, it will be from the premise of who can best beautify the locality. One can be certain that there will be new types of dwellings. Along with the disappearance of cities as we know them will also go the high-rises, those up-turned shoe-boxes where people are crammed in like sardines, to be replaced with buildings where people can at least live like humans.

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