In his travels around ‘Brexitland’ Owen Jones analyses the issues that influenced people to vote Leave. His assessment of Barking and Dagenham contains the following points.
Britain’s housing crisis has all sorts of consequences: it damages the health and education prospects of young people; it puts strains on families; and it inflames tensions by making locals feel they are in competition with one another. These tensions were part of what led to many communities voting to leave the European Union: in Barking and Dagenham 62% backed Brexit.
The government’s failure on housing is catastrophic: apart from the years when the Luftwaffe pounded Britain, you’d have to revert to the 1920s for a time when so few homes were being built.
In a pokey office near Dagenham East tube station, councillor Margaret Mullane tells me that housing is the top issue in local surgeries, and the number one issue on the doorstep.
Owen Jones rightly criticises Government policy over the impact of ‘Right to Buy’ [Four of 10 council flats sold under right-to-buy are now rented out more expensively by private landlords], yet there is a serious omission in the article. Nowhere is population increase mentioned. More people in an area results in greater housing need.
BArking and Dagenham saw the number of households increase by 4.3% between 2001 and 2011 with numbers rising more recently with a projected increase of 21% between 2011 and 2021.
It’s hardly surprising that there is a housing crisis in the Borough – but why not mention population increase as a major cause? Probably because for commentators on the left (and many on the right), population increase is regarded as normal or even a good thing!
Until attitudes change, the UK will continue to see housing as a major issue.