Housing

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Canberra bureaucrats commissioning NT houses unfit for purpose

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/06/2024 - 4:54am in

Tags 

Housing

Labor’s $4 billion for Indigenous housing in the Northern Territory is set for failure unless it incorporates Aboriginal expertise. Bob Hawke famously was told the jig was up when Gareth Evans told him to “pull out, digger. The dogs are pissing on your swag.” I got the message when I was told by a Department Continue reading »

Care Leavers Attending University are Being Made Homeless by Their Local Authorities 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/06/2024 - 8:21pm in

Young people leaving care in England have lost their right to local authority housing by going to university, and have been told they made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’ because they turned down accommodation they were unable to access while studying.

The development comes amid a sharp drop in social housing fuelled by insufficient rental accommodation, the demolition of homes, and rent to buy schemes. Care leaver homelessness has risen by 33% among 18 to 22 year olds since 2018, while one third of care leavers now experience homelessness in the first two years after leaving care.

Under the Housing Act 1996, a person can only be found to have made themselves intentionally homeless if they have deliberately done, or failed to do, something which ends their accommodation, or if the housing is still available and it would be reasonable for them to continue staying there.

Government guidance on intentional homelessness adds that "an act or omission should not generally be treated as deliberate, even where deliberately carried out, if it is forced upon the applicant through no fault of their own”. However, local authority discretion to deny housing has left care leavers in higher education struggling to stay off the streets. 

“We hear from young people who are told that they are so called intentionally homeless because they have moved to a different part of the country to go to university,” Katharine Sacks-Jones, the Chief Executive of Become, a national charity offering support to children in care and care leavers, told Byline Times. “This is no fault of the young person. And we're talking about very young people who are 18, 19, 20 years old."

Children must leave the care system on their eighteenth birthday and are expected to live independently, even if they attend university or access other forms of higher education. Local authorities are then required to provide a list of services for care leavers in their areas, but they vary widely between councils and help is often limited. 

While young people are entitled to a range of support services until age 25, including the right to a personal adviser who must keep in regular contact with them, and housing support once they turn 18, there is currently no legal duty on local authorities to ensure that care leavers are given housing after completing their education. 

Lucinda Fernandes Marvilha lost her housing support when she was 21 after attending a university which was not in her local authority area of North London. She was initially offered a flat in her area but was already enrolled for a Spanish and Dance degree at The University of Sunderland almost 300 miles away, making a daily commute impossible.

Despite having a personal adviser, the 26-year-old was never informed about her housing rights or told what would happen if she left her area to study.

Lucinda was told she had made herself intentionally homeless. Photo: Supplied

“The only reason I went so far away was because that was the only university that did that combined degree," she explained, adding: "They are also well known for supporting people in care. They supported me really well in terms of course units and scholarships."

When Lucinda graduated, her local authority informed her that she would not be provided with housing after turning down the original flat and that she had made herself homeless as a result. She was able to return to her foster carers who took her in without financial support from the local authority, after she ‘aged out’ of the foster care system at 21. 

Sophie Shasby, who left care at 17, was told without warning that she lost her right to accommodation after staying in her university’s halls of residence while doing a nursing course. 

Sophie Shasby lost her right to accommodation after staying in her university’s halls of residence while doing a nursing course.  Photo: Supplied

The 26-year-old tried to get support from her local authority, Cheshire East, but found that the council’s responses were slow and resulted on several occasions in her needing to get a privately rented flat. The council acted as a guarantor for the first six months in one flat when she was 17, but she had to move out after that as she could not afford it. Sophie rented several more flats privately with other people, but those arrangements were short lived and unstable. She again asked her local authority for help but they ignored her requests, then closed her case when she was 26 and no longer eligible for support.

Sophie, who was almost made homeless on two occasions during this period, was able to get housing from Cheshire West, where she now works as a mental health nurse. 

That council, she explained, "were a lot more helpful even though they weren't the council that looked after me". She added: "Their attitude to everything was just completely different."

Although Sophie is grateful for Cheshire West’s support, the constant fear of being made homeless has affected her mental health.

It's been horrible. Nowhere has felt like home

Sophie Shasby

“The experience has gotten me into a pattern of even though I don't like moving and I don't want to move because I've moved so much, now after six months I start to think, where am I going next? So now I've got to get used to the fact that this is where I am now, for this year. It's just caused so many disruptions in my life,” Sophie explained.

Matt Downie, the Chief Executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said councils were using intentional homelessness to deny care leavers housing. While the concept, he explained, was introduced to stop people "gaming the system to get preferential access to social housing. It is now used as a way in which limited resources can be kept from people that need them."

He added: "Local authorities don't have to use intentional homelessness. No one is policing a system that says you have to say that somebody is intentionally homeless”.

Ezra Rose wanted to get away from the care system as soon as she could, and decided to go travelling around Holland for two months when she turned 18 before continuing her education. 

Ezra Rose was told she was no longer eligible for housing after going travelling after years in the care system. Photo: Supplied

“I was craving freedom because growing up in care I wasn't allowed to have a smartphone or access to the internet or social media. And then all this freedom landed on me at once. I decided to just go for it because I was sick of everything,” the 24-year-old told Byline Times

Although she had notified her personal adviser about the trip and had left contact details, when she returned to the UK Ezra was told her case had been closed and she was no longer eligible for housing support. Ezra's personal adviser said she had "disappeared for two months" and in so doing had made herself intentionally homeless. 

Ezra had begun a relationship with a man she met in Holland, however they were unable to move in with her foster carers together because of child protection regulations which prevent young people in care living with their partners. Scared that they would have to live on the streets, Ezra and her partner, who are now married, moved in to her disabled mother’s house, which was not allowed under her mother's housing agreement. Ezra then became her mother’s carer.  

“I wanted to stay with my mum because I love my mum and she relied on me to help. So I asked if I could get some kind of housing help and the answer was no. I just felt really lucky that my mum was able to give me that place. But at the same time, that meant that I had to become a full time carer for her while also studying independently and it was a lot of work,” Ezra said. “I could have been on the streets. It's so bizarre to me that that was a potential possibility. I can see the steps I could have taken to fall through the net if I had slightly different circumstances. It makes me angry”.

I've always felt really terrified by instability, and any kind of threat that I perceive to my housing really frightens me. It gives me nightmares.

Ezra Rose

The experience has left Ezra with the constant fear of being homeless: "I'm afraid to talk to landlords just in case they don't like me anymore. That total fear of instability and knowing that it's a real threat, it lives with me always.”

Changes made to the homelessness code of guidance for local authorities on 3 May by the Department for Education and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities have tried to address care leaver homelessness.

The amendments invite local authorities to record practices between children’s and housing services to make intentional homelessness decisions for care leavers only in exceptional circumstances and to create a sign-off process for such decisions. 

Sacks-Jones welcomed the guidance but remained concerned about its impact as it was something “local authorities should take heed of but don't always".

When young people have overcome all these hurdles and done brilliantly and got a university place that we’re saying if you take it you're going to be intentionally homeless. It’s outrageous

Katharine Sacks-Jones, Chief Executive of Become

"There needs to be legislative change to make clear that young people should not be being deemed intentionally homeless once they've left care. I'm sceptical about what differences it will make.”

Local authorities denying housing to care leavers in higher education are forcing a growing number of young people to choose between their accommodation and education, creating an additional barrier for those wanting to create a better future for themselves, and who already fare worse than the general population for educational outcomes. 

A report published in July 2022 by Parliament’s Education Committee found that local authorities had been responsible for a “host of indefensible system failings” which had damaged educational outcomes for children in care. In that same year, just 14% of children in care had progressed to higher education by the age of 19, compared to 47% of all other pupils, according to data provided by the government. 

“Young people and children in care are moved around the country, they face high instability. Education is disrupted. It's not good enough when young people have overcome all these hurdles and done brilliantly and got a university place that we’re saying if you take it you're going to be intentionally homeless. It’s outrageous,” Sacks-Jones said. 

A Unique Community Land Trust Is Helping Richmonders Buy Homes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/05/2024 - 6:00pm in

This story was originally published on Next City and Richmond’s VPM News as part of the joint Equitable Cities Reporting Fellowship For Reparations Narratives.

When Michael Haggins’ credit score disqualified him for a mortgage preapproval in 2021, he was crushed.

A single father who grew up in Richmond, Haggins dreamed of owning a house in his hometown where his two sons could play freely. A shortage of just five credit score points — plus systemic inequities and a national housing crisis — left them all living with his mother.

But today, Haggins is the proud owner of a home in Church Hill, thanks to Richmond’s Maggie Walker Community Land Trust (MWCLT) and its pioneering model for creating permanently affordable housing.

“I don’t think I could’ve done it without their help, honestly,” says Haggins. Being selected for the community land trust’s lease-to-own pilot was a “blessing,” he says: “The program is geared toward helping individuals such as myself, who are right at the line of homeownership but can’t seem to cross it.”

An owner of one of the land trust's homes poses in front of a home with two kids.An owner of one of the land trust’s homes. Courtesy of MWCLT

It’s all part of the land trust’s mission to develop and steward permanently affordable home properties to foster racially equitable communities, says Lark Washington, the MWCLT’s chief operating officer.

Since its founding, Richmond’s community land trust has sold 89 homes to income-eligible homebuyers, with a few more homes currently under contract and 150+ properties in their pipeline. They’ll be completing construction on their first subdivision, Ettrick Landing, in southern Chesterfield County about 30 minutes south from Richmond. The MWCLT is also undergoing infrastructure work for a 21-unit subdivision in nearby Henrico County.

It’s on pace to close on its 100th home in under a decade this coming fall — a pace enabled by its three-pronged approach to making homeownership more equitable and accessible.

A triple threat

From Kansas City to the Florida Keys, community land trusts (CLTs) are becoming more popular as an affordable housing solution.

In a CLT, a nonprofit organization owns the land beneath a home. Income-qualified homebuyers purchase the home rather than the land upon which it sits, reducing down payment and monthly mortgage costs. A 99-year renewable ground lease plus resale restrictions on homeowners ensure the home remains affordable, even to future homebuyers.

“We have an agreement on the resale price, should you choose to move,” Washington explains. “And you can stay in the home as long as you want. You can even pass down the home through the family, where you will set up part of the closing process.”

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But the MWCLT isn’t just a community land trust. As a rare CLT that also serves as both a housing developer and a land bank, the MWCLT has developed a powerful approach to make housing affordable to more low- and middle-income Richmonders through private and public sector partnerships.

“We are the first land bank and land trust in the country,” Washington says. Land banks acquire and manage vacant and tax-delinquent properties and repurpose them for community needs. Like land trusts, they are an increasingly popular tool for creating affordable housing. But these entities rarely partner together, despite calls for increased collaboration.

In 2016, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Land Bank Entities Act, enabling localities to create land banks. Two years later, the city of Richmond appointed the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust as its designated land bank. In 2019, MWCLT also became the designated land bank for Chesterfield and Henrico counties.

“Most localities are sitting on lots of land, whether they’re tax-delinquent properties or they’ve owned parcels and they don’t know what to do with it,” Washington says. By allowing the MWCLT to develop homes on this land, localities can reap property taxes from otherwise unproductive land — and achieve local housing goals.

As a land bank in these localities, the MWCLT faces less competition for parcels, which streamlines the time it takes to complete projects. Plus, it helps the MWCLT make its homes more affordable for its buyers: The land bank is exempt from paying property tax on these parcels, which means it doesn’t have to take on those costs or pass them on to homeowners. Homebuyers do have to pay property taxes on the home they purchase from the MWCLT, but not on the land.

“That’s one of the things that most CLTs deal with, because most CLTs are not also land banks,” Washington explains. “The CLT homeowner owns this [house], but they also have to pay property tax on that land, even though they don’t have ownership of it.”

For many private developers, land can be up to 30 percent of the costs of a project, she says. “If a county comes in and says, ‘Hey, we’ll give you this land at a discounted price, or we’ll transfer it for free,’ that significantly lowers the price of the project,” she says.

That’s on top of sky-high construction costs — it can take $200,000 just to build a house, not even counting the price of the land, she says. But as a housing developer, the MWCLT is also able to subsidize these development costs.

Combating racial disparities

Today, the median home sales price in Richmond is around $385,000. “The cost of living is currently astronomical,” says Haggins, who is Black.

“It’s hard to find an affordable apartment, so the vast majority of people cannot even think about trying to own a home at this time.”

MWCLT is slowly working to change that. Its median home sales price sits at about $165,000. The organization targets homebuyers whose income level is at about 60 percent to 80 percent of the area median income; in 2023, the household median income for MWCLT homebuyers was about $52,000, 48 percent of Richmond’s area median income.

In 2022, the affordability gap of all first-time homebuyers in Richmond was about 4.8 times the median home price of $376,871, with a median income of $78,909, according to NerdWallet.

Those disparities have repercussions for the local racial homeownership rate. Data released in January by the Partnership for Housing Affordability shows that homeownership among Richmond-area Black households remains more than 25 percentage points below that of white households, at 49 percent.

“One of MWCLT’s goals is expanding equitable access to homeownership, and we have made great strides to increase Black homeownership in our programs,” says Washington. The organization says 79 percent of new homeowners in 2023 were people of color.

For her, this work is personal.

“My family, like many others, were impacted by the 2008 housing crisis and our home was foreclosed,” says Washington. Reading sociologist Matthew Desmond’s 2016 book Evicted pushed her to study urban planning at Virginia Commonwealth University and focus on Richmond’s eviction crisis for her master’s thesis. “I realized how housing has been used as a tool to systematically disinvest in Black communities and drain generational wealth.”

Lark Washington speaks behind a podium.Lark Washington. Credit: Next City

She went on to work for the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development before joining the MWCLT in 2022, through her role at the small boutique consulting firm HDAdvisors. The Richmond-based firm founded the land trust with a group of housing professionals and continues to help operate the land trust today.

The group named the MWCLT in honor of Maggie Lena Walker, the first woman of color to establish a bank in America and an iconic figure in the city. The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank looms large in Richmond history as a powerful initiative to harness Black residents’ financial resources for the betterment of the community. By offering reasonably priced loans and mortgages to Black families, the bank empowered them to attain homeownership, launch businesses and build economic opportunities for themselves and succeeding generations.

From the start, CLTs have been a part of the effort to advance economic justice for Black Americans: The first CLT was born in 1970 in rural Georgia, as activists developed an agricultural community on land leased from a community-led nonprofit.

“It’s part of a legacy of civil rights advocacy of community land trusts, trying to have collective ownership for long-term autonomy and ownership of the land,” says Washington. “In that case, they were sharecroppers with farmland. We use the CLT model to extend affordable homeownership to folks that are priced out of the market.”

An incomplete solution

This year, the land trust plans to build 32 homes, including two subdivisions in Chesterfield and Henrico.

But it’s also a drop in the bucket of Richmond’s housing crisis. In part, that’s due to limitations from city zoning codes.

“Sometimes the zoning really dictates what we can build,” Washington says. “For instance, I would love to build more duplexes and attached homes, because that is cost-effective for us.” But zoning codes in Richmond or nearby counties can complicate their plans.

“We’ll have a parcel [where] we plan on building a few duplexes, and then we find out because of the regulations with zoning and the constraints there, it’s better for us to build two detached homes.”

While the land trust began by doing infill development and home rehabs in the city, it’s now begun working on larger-scale projects.

The land trust is currently collaborating with two Black-led nonprofits in Richmond, Girls for a Change and Happily Natural Day, with the aim of building a permanently affordable agricultural community in North Chesterfield. Called the Bensley Agrihood, the planned nine-acre housing development would be Virginia’s first affordable agrihood, or farm-centered neighborhood.


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“We want to bring these high amenities to folk who are normally priced out,” Washington says.

Under the partners’ current vision, the walkable agrihood will include 10 affordable homes, four tiny homes for rent, a wellness center and a community incubator farm for the entire neighborhood.

In this case, access to land is not a concern; a parcel was donated to Girls For A Change. But to build the agrihood they envision, they’re fighting an uphill battle to rezone the land.

“I really wanted to think about ways of not just getting my girls from renting to owning, but with this partnership with the Maggie Walker Land Trust — how can we make sure that our girls had access [to housing] after you decided your career and you’re ready to buy a home?” explains Angela Patton, CEO of local youth development nonprofit Girls for a Change and a longtime resident of the Bensley neighborhood.

Other challenges include being unsure what the parcels can be used for when receiving them through the land bank. As MWLCT does not get to pick and choose the parcels it receives, it’s forced to spend thousands to conduct due diligence checks and research what it can feasibly do with each property.

“We would like more information on what we can do for those parcels, and I feel like that’s something the city can help us with,” Washington says.

The post A Unique Community Land Trust Is Helping Richmonders Buy Homes appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Dutton’s ignorant, incompetent policies contradicted by evidence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 25/05/2024 - 4:57am in

Dutton has finally started to show his hand and build his campaign for the next election around energy policy and housing affordability. The problem is that his ignorance of the evidence demonstrates his incompetence. Ever since he became Leader of the Labor Party, Albanese has been determined to offer a small target by not departing Continue reading »

Are Sleek Modular Homes the Future of Affordable Housing?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 6:00pm in

In Buena Vista, Colorado, there’s a factory that builds houses. Not double-wides or A-frame kits, but bonafide, full-size, single-family homes. The factory, home of the manufacturing company Fading West, is immense. Like a giant air hockey table, its floor is covered with air jets powerful enough to move whole rooms. And right now, the facility is churning out up to two homes per week. 

Housing experts have toyed with the idea of modular housing as a solution to the affordable housing crisis for decades. In the 1970s, the federal government dumped millions of dollars in subsidies into modular home factories across the US. But the subsidies couldn’t change the fact that the technology wasn’t good enough to make or move the homes efficiently. Then there was the problem of the connotation. Prefabricated homes were often associated with mobile home parks, which many middle-class Americans considered shoddily made and visually unattractive. For decades, “prefab” was a bit of a dirty word. 

The post Are Sleek Modular Homes the Future of Affordable Housing? appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Cartoon commentary

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 4:54am in

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Housing, Politics

How Wall Street Priced You Out of a HomeRent is skyrocketing and...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 3:13am in

How Wall Street Priced You Out of a Home

Rent is skyrocketing and home buying is out of reach for millions. One big reason why? Wall Street.

Hedge funds and private equity firms have been buying up hundreds of thousands of homes that would otherwise be purchased by people. Wall Street’s appetite for housing ramped up after the 2008 financial crisis. As you’ll recall, the Street’s excessive greed created a housing bubble that burst. Millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure.

Did the Street learn a lesson? Of course not. It got bailed out. Then it began picking off the scraps of the housing market it had just destroyed, gobbling up foreclosed homes at fire-sale prices — which it then sold or rented for big profits.

Investor purchases hit their peak in 2022, accounting for around 28% of all home sales in America.

Home buyers frequently reported being outbid by cash offers made by investors. So called “iBuyers” used algorithms to instantly buy homes before offers could even be made by actual humans.

If the present trend continues, by 2030, Wall Street investors may control 40% of U.S. single-family rental homes.

Partly as a result, homeownership — a cornerstone of generational wealth and a big part of the American dream — is increasingly out of reach for a large number of Americans, especially young people.

Now, Wall Street’s feasting has slowed recently due to rising home prices — even the wolves of Wall Street are falling victim to sticker shock. But that hasn’t stopped them from specifically targeting more modestly priced homes — buying up a record share of the country’s most affordable homes at the end of 2023.

They’ve also been most active in bigger cities, particularly in the Sun Belt, which has become an increasingly expensive place to live. And they’re pointedly going after neighborhoods that are home to communities of color.

For example, in one diverse neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, Wall Street-backed investors bought half of the homes that sold in 2021 and 2022. On a single block, investors bought every house but one, and turned them into rentals.

Folks, it’s a vicious cycle: First you’re outbid by investors, then you may be stuck renting from them at excessive prices that leave you with even less money to put up for a new home. Rinse. Repeat.

Now I want to be clear: This is just one part of the problem with housing in America. The lack of supply is considered the biggest reason why home prices and rents have soared — and are outpacing recent wage gains. But Wall Street sinking its teeth into whatever is left on the market is making the supply problem even worse.

So what can we do about this? Start by getting Wall Street out of our homes.

Democrats have introduced a bill in both houses of Congress to ban hedge funds and private equity firms from buying or owning single-family homes.

If signed into law, this could increase the supply of homes available to individual buyers — thereby making housing more affordable.

President Biden has also made it a priority to tackle the housing crisis, proposing billions in funding to increase the supply of homes and tax credits to help actual people buy them.

Now I have no delusions that any of this will be easy to get done. But these plans provide a roadmap of where the country could head — under the right leadership.

So many Americans I meet these days are cynical about the country. I understand their cynicism. But cynicism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if it means giving up the fight.

The captains of American industry and Wall Street would like nothing better than for the rest of us to give up that fight, so they can take it all.

I say we keep fighting.

Conservatives have made the UK world beating again

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2024 - 10:15pm in

A quite remarkable chart from the ever industrious John Burn Murdoch from the FT shows that Britain has the highest rate of homelessness in the developed world: Now there seems to me to be a bar chart explanation required because it seems that some countries’ bars appear twice which, I think, means that they display... Read more

Six Things Keir Starmer’s ‘Six Steps’ Tell us About the Labour Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/05/2024 - 8:09pm in

Keir Starmer has today revealed the “first six steps for change” an incoming Labour Government would take if it is elected later this year.

The list, which was set out to journalists in advance on Wednesday, is different in several key respects to the ‘five missions’ he previously set out last year.

Here’s what has been added, what has been taken away, and what it tells us about the Labour leader and his plans for government.

Housing is Out and ‘Border Security’ is in

The first thing I noticed when looking at the list was that the first of Labour’s “five missions” for government, which was to “Get Britain Building Again” has vanished from the list. The second thing I noticed was that an immigration-based commitment to “Launch a new border security command” has been inserted instead.

Asked about this switch up, a Labour spokesperson told me that “what we’ve said about housebuilding before completely stands”. This was backed up by one of the business speakers at the launch event for today's six steps, focused solely on housing. However, while Labour's housing policy may not have changed, the emphasis placed upon it clearly has. By de-emphasising their pledge on housebuilding, which may be controversial in some NIMBY-filled Conservative target seats, and re-emphasising its new pledge on immigration, the Labour Party is sending a message about the kind of government it intends to be.

‘Spending Rules’ Now Trump Economic Growth

    The second thing I noticed was that whereas previous versions of Starmer’s ‘five missions’ for Government had committed to securing the “highest sustained growth in the G7” these ‘six steps’ instead commit to “deliver economic stability” through “tough spending rules.”

    This is a massive difference. Insisting that ‘fiscal rules’ should be the country’s number one priority, as the party's Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves did this morning, or that "stability is change" as Starmer put it rather obliquely, risks Labour making exactly the same mistakes that led the UK into the decade of austerity-driven low growth we have just experienced under the Conservatives.

    This is a suggestion that Labour has strongly pushed back upon, with Reeves insisting this morning that investment in the economy remains the party's priority. However, this new emphasis on "stability", combined with the party’s recent abandonment of its plan to invest £28 billion a year in green projects, suggests that the era of fiscal conservatism that has driven the UK into its current slump may yet continue under a Labour Government.

    From ‘Pledges’ to ‘Missions’ to ‘Steps’

      The next thing worth noting about Starmer’s new list is that it appears to be once an attempt to downgraded the extent to which he can be held to account for it. When he first ran for Labour leader, Stamer made “ten pledges” to his party, most of which he has since abandoned. Then when he revealed his new list last year, the word “pledges” had been replaced with the word “missions”. A pledge is to mission as a commitment is to a target. He may have a mission to “build an NHS fit for the future” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will promise to actually achieve it. The latest version goes a stage further, replacing the word “mission” with the word “steps” instead. So not only is he not pledging to get to the end of his mission, but he’s not even yet committing to get beyond the first step of that mission. This may not sound like a particularly important distinction to many people, but these kinds of differences in language do actually matter.

      This is particularly the case given the lack of actual concrete, measurable commitments in this list, aside from a single pledge to recruit 6,500 teachers. On every other step, from cutting waiting lists to “launching” new border security measures, the list does not give any means by which voters can actually judge whether the steps will have been a success.

      Government by Opinion Poll

        If Starmer’s list of six steps and the order they have been placed in looks familiar to you, it could be because you have already seen very similar lists before. Every month the pollsters Ipsos publish a list of the top issues that most concern voters. The top three priorities in their latest version is identical to the first three in Starmer’s list, with the next three also following fairly closely to Ipsos’ list of voters’ priorities, it’s very clear that whoever was in charge of drawing up this list is very familiar with such polling. Asked about this on Wednesday, a Labour spokesperson replied that “this is a really good set of steps to show that we care about what the British public do.”

        Climate Timidity

          While most of the public’s top priorities are included in Starmer’s list there is no explicit reference to tackling climate change, which depending on which pollster asks the question, has consistently been among the top issues for voters for some time. The issue isn’t completely excluded, with a pledge to create a “publicly-owned clean power company” making number four on Starmer’s list. However, previous references to reaching “net zero” have been removed. Coming as it does after the party’s U-turn on its £28 billion climate plan, and its post-Uxbridge by-election criticism of Sadiq Khan’s clean air policies, this is another sign of the political direction Labour is heading in.

          It’s all About Keir

            The last thing worth noting about Labour’s ‘six steps’ is that Keir Starmer is placed front and centre. The list is not labeled as “Labour’s first steps for change” but “My first steps for change” with a large picture of Starmer taking up the majority of the party’s new Tony Blair-style ‘pledge cards’.

            This is an interesting choice given that Starmer’s ratings are currently historically pretty low for an opposition leader heading towards government. His presentational style is not always the most convincing. While not a bad speaker, his speech was one of the least impressively delivered of the many politicians, business people and activists who took to the stage at the party's launch rally this morning.

            However, while Starmer may not be the most inspiring speaker, he is still a lot more effective than Sunak, whose speaking-style sometimes makes him sound like a particularly patronising supply teacher. And while the Labour leader's ratings may not be great, they are still a lot higher than Sunak’s, whose name was largely absent from the vast majority of the Conservative party’s campaign material sent out in the recent local elections.

            This contrast between the two leaders probably explains Labour's apparent confidence in Starmer’s ability to win a presidential-style battle against Sunak, and also tells us a lot about what we can expect from the coming general election campaign.

            Thanks To Wall Street, There Goes The Neighborhood

            Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/05/2024 - 11:00pm in

            Tags 

            Housing

            For Rebecca Harris, the little house she rented in Huntersville, North Carolina in 2020 represented her escape from a toxic marriage, the beginning of a new life for herself and her children.

            Until the ceiling started caving in.

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