New council homes are a bold beacon for homeless

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In this country, unlike most in mainland Europe, it has always been an aspiration to own your own home.

But in the good economic cycles, let alone these harsh, straitened times, there will always be those who need help to put a permanent roof over the heads of their family.

Traditionally that responsibility fell on councils until Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979 and promptly revolutionised social housing in Britain.

Her contentious right-to-buy policy gave council tenants the ability to buy their homes outright for the first time.

It was a laudable move which saw thousands able to move into the private sector and become what they had always thought impossible – the owners of their homes.

It gave them a kick-start on the housing ladder which they would never have had. And many moved onwards and upwards.

However, because so many seized the opportunity, so many stayed put in their newly-acquired homes and then the government slashed the money it gave to councils for housing, the number of available traditional council houses was decimated.

Now, for the first time in a generation, Portsmouth City Council wants to build the first sizeable number of new homes.

It dipped its toes back in the social housing water a couple of years ago with an experimental scheme at Somers Town.

Now it will construct 170 houses and flats in the city in the next two years with the possibility of more at Leigh Park in the future.

It is a bold and praiseworthy move in the current financial climate yet it is because of the recession that it has had to take these steps.

There are more than 1,000 families on the waiting list for three-bedroomed houses. That’s 3,000 people costing the taxpayer a fortune because they have to be housed in temporary homes.

Hopefully the days of massive new council estates with all their inherent social problems have long gone. But small-scale schemes such as those now planned by Portsmouth should be held up as a beacon to others.