TUC 2012: Despite being one of the richest nations in the world Britain is experiencing a housing crisis.
This is due to the failure of successive governments to invest sufficiently in building homes for social rent.
There are currently five million people on housing waiting lists. Figures for homelessness and the number of people placed in bed and breakfast accommodation have risen sharply, while the number of newly built social housing properties has plummeted.
The lack of a decent home is crucial to a person's life chances.
Inadequate accommodation means that you are more likely to suffer poor health and lower educational attainment.
The lack of social housing was bad before the Conservative-led government took power. But it has made the situation far worse.
As soon as it took power it began to cancel funding for building new council housing.
This was followed by the comprehensive spending review in October 2010, which cut future spending on new-build social housing by 60 per cent.
Ever since then the government has been trying to plug the funding gap with policies which will actually exacerbate the housing crisis.
First, it was announced that the rents of all newly built social housing will be set at 80 per cent of market value.
This will make cheap, affordable family accommodation a thing of the past in many areas.
Social housing will become unaffordable for low-waged families without the aid of benefits.
The government claims that the additional rental income will be ploughed back into building new homes.
In reality increased rents mean that even more families will be dragged into a benefits trap with no prospect of escape.
In a classic "sons of Thatcher" moment the government has also reinvigorated the "right to buy."
Right-to-buy discounts have been increased to £75,000, with tenants able to buy council flats for 30 per cent of market value and council houses for 40 per cent.
Again the government has claimed that the money generated would be used to build new homes.
But the policy is a classic case of smoke and mirrors.
Given the level of discounts, the receipts generated would often be well below the £60,000 cost of building a new property.
Allied to reinvigorating right-to-buy are recent proposals by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, endorsed by the government, that councils should sell off their most expensive housing and replace it with cheaper properties in less desirable parts of towns and cities - the clearest example of ghettoisation yet proposed.
What this government fails to understand is that selling off an already scarce resource is going to make the problem worse not better.
What is so deeply frustrating is that unlike many social problems, resolving the housing crisis is within our grasp.
It will take a combination of money and political will to build sufficient new homes for social rent, to start to tackle housing need and guarantee hundreds of thousands of families a decent future.
A massive social house building campaign is also the quickest and easiest way of kick-starting the construction industry, whose poor performance - primarily caused by government cuts - is a major factor in the double-dip recession.
Getting skilled construction workers back to work increases tax revenues and decreases benefit payments.
It also helps restore confidence in the industry, which will encourage private-sector investment.
Housing is set to be a key battleground in the future.
Yet it seems even with the growing awareness of the housing crisis the current government's ideological obsession with cuts and blind faith in the free market mean that the solution to our housing problems is beyond them.
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