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Haiti puts our housing needs in perspective

January 22, 2010

Everything pales into insignificance alongside the devastating images coming out of Haiti.

I have sent my own personal contribution via British Red Cross. It is difficult to know what else can be done on an individual level. We need a serious and co-ordinated global relief effort.

It is at times like this that I am proud of the internationalist approach of the Liberal Democrats.

It is at times of national and global crisis that the philosophy of the Little Englander is shown at its most spurious.

On the domestic front, the campaign for the General Election that has not yet been called continues apace.

At the end of last week, the Liberal Democrats set out our plans to bring a quarter of a million empty homes back into use, making homes available for people who need them and creating 65,000 jobs.

There are over 760,000 empty properties across England which are no longer used as homes, but which can be brought back into use with some investment.

People who own these homes will get a grant or a cheap loan to renovate them so they can be used: grants if the home is for social housing, loans for private use.

According to the research, there are 1,445 empty homes currently in the Borough of Hastings.

In our area, lack of social housing capacity is a real concern.

I am pleased that Nick and Vince are leading the debate on this at a national level. Returning empty homes to use is a practical way of helping to relieve the pressure on families, and providing employment opportunities to help mitigate the effects of the recession.

The plans form part of the economic stimulus package outlined as a core principle of the Liberal Democrat election manifesto.

In the first year of the new Parliament, the party would redirect over £3.6bn of spending to create jobs and build up Britain’s infrastructure. In the following years redirections will enable us to focus on other Lib Dem priorities and to reduce the structural deficit.

It is the view of Vince Cable, and I agree, that cutting public spending too quickly may result in the economy nose-diving.

Dave and George disagree of course, and they are wrong.

Nick Clegg launched our housing plans with Vince Cable and Liberal Democrat Shadow Housing Minister, Sarah Teather. This is what he said:

“Allowing thousands of houses to sit empty when millions of families have been waiting years for a home is nothing short of a scandal.

“These plans are a clear example of where Liberal Democrat priorities lie: creating jobs and providing more family homes.

“The cost of bringing these homes back into use is just a fraction of the cost of new-build, yet the Government is sitting idly by while they fall into disrepair.

“This is one element of our economic stimulus package that will generate jobs and help Britain on its way to building a fair, sustainable economy.”

It’s not rocket science, but the Liberal Democrats appear to be ahead of the curve again in respect of a costed, practical approach to consolidating the country’s economic recovery.

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