When my Grandma arrived at Corby railway station, following a long and undoubtedly testing journey from Scotland with her five children, they were given the God sent ‘gift’ of an affordable new home. A building that belonged to the local authority which was specifically reserved as rented accommodation for those without the means of affording a home of their own. One of those children was my Mum who met the carpenter from Essex, my Dad, in a council house on Corby’s Occupation Road. They in turn eventually found a council house to call home in Thoroughsale Road, in which they would bring up a family of their own in the secure knowledge that their tenancy was protected by the local authority. So much so that my parents treated that house as if it were their own, maintaining it and its gardens throughout their entire marriage to the highest possible standard. It looked better then than it does today!
Hand on heart I can honestly say that it was the safest, warmest, love-filled pile of bricks and mortar on this earth. This is an example of what can be achieved when people are given the opportunity to live in a home that can’t be sold under a tenants feet. Rents are stable and protected by law. Council housing declined sharply in the Thatcher era, as the Conservative government encouraged aspiration toward home ownership under the Right to buy scheme, leaving us today with only something like 40% of the country’s social housing stock owned by local authorities. As I have progressed through life I’ve managed, through hard work and due diligence, to afford and live in private housing, derived from the simple aspiration to have what my parents didn’t. “That’s progress son,” I can still hear my Dad saying. Yet, despite my best efforts, I struggle to find any evidence of current affordable council house building in the Corby Borough village in which I live. Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough, though I can’t help but see swathes of private houses and bungalows eating up what remains of appropriate (or inappropriate depending on opinion) building land, new homes that might sell, when completed, for ‘lottery-winner’ prices. If my Mum and Dad met today in Gretton, they would have to move away from what they knew purely because of the lack of affordable rented accommodation. Its seems a sad indictment that the society of the 40’s and 50’s had a more imaginative long term view of what was required by the vast majority of people within its remit. A decent start in life is not synonymous with owning ones own home. Indeed, we live in one of the few countries in the world where there seems to be an unhealthy appetite for the ever expensive and, certainly these days, illusive mortgage. It was the sub-prime mortgage market in the U.S.A. that highlighted the incredible weakness in human nature to refrain from ‘screwing’ the system, consequently bringing the global financial house of cards falling to its present state: on its knees.