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TUC: Government must not forget poorer homeowners

It calls for a new approach to housing policy and says that although more and more people want to own their own homes, home ownership does not always bring prosperity.
The report says that back in 1975 only 62 per cent of the adult population aspired to own their own home, but by 2010 the figure had risen to 89 per cent. However huge mortgages taken out by workers in low-paid jobs can leave cash tied up in property while families become poor and unable to move to pursue employment opportunities elsewhere.
The report challenges the commonly-held stereotypes that social housing is for the problematic poor, that home ownership is for the aspiring many, and private rental for a minority in limbo. It says that after housing costs are taken into account there are 3.1 million people of working age who are owner-occupiers and who live in poverty. Of these, two million have mortgages.
Can Housing Work for Workers? says that in areas where house prices are depressed, ways must be found of helping families whose mortgages and housing commitments make it impossible for them to move in search of work to do so. That’s not to say that people should be forced to relocate, says the report, as it calls for active state intervention to target areas in economic decline to encourage businesses to move there and so increase the number of job openings available.
Commenting on the report, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘This report argues that false assumptions about the benefits of home ownership have led to policy makers failing to acknowledge that many owner-occupiers are trapped in areas with few jobs.
‘A new approach is needed, which includes extending financial and advisory support to owner-occupiers and accepting that both private rented and social housing have a vital role to play in creating greater mobility for those seeking work and greater financial security.
‘Without new thinking, the UK is likely to repeat the mistakes of the past and become trapped in a cycle of housing boom and bust.’

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