About Colchester's Housing Policy

The Reform of UK Housing Policy

Dutch Quarter


Colchester is typical of the small towns and rural counties in which the majority of the population live (about 60%). For that reason alone, the significance of Colchester's history can claim priority over the large cities and metropolitan boroughs that have often shaped UK housing policy. In 1970s Colchester, the benefits of post-war investment in low cost rented housing stock were demonstrated and it was proved easy to implement mixed developments at little cost.

Bernard Ready

Formally, a Chief Research Officer at the University of Essex, now retired. As an elected councillor of Colchester Borough Council during the 1970s, he was responsible for implementing a radical new housing policy from 1972 to 1975 that achieved the building of 1,800 new council houses on a balanced budget with no subsidies. The new building programme began to reverse the historic policy of residualisation; the mistake of segregating council houses into large estates, where disproportionate numbers of low-income families, single parents and old people were unable to attract the development of adequate services and resources.

Fifty per cent of the new houses were built on small infill sites distributed throughout the town and none of them were built on land adjoining to the existing council estates. Two such areas of land were sold to private developers and five smaller sites were purchased in newly developing parts of the town.

Since the mid - 1990s, Bernard Ready has written and maintained this website, where he has developed the ideas of Complementary Housing, a spectrum of investment housing that uses the investment of equity in different ways. At one end of the spectrum, rented complementary housing uses the equity of the stock to yield low rents, while at the other, home ownership uses the equity as an insurance for old age, as a bequest to grown up children or cashed in to plan retirement travels. Bernard Ready Somewhere in the middle, co-operative housing and part-ownership schemes use some of the equity to yield lower rents and some to withdraw as equity on leaving the scheme. The site shows the mutually supportive interaction of different types of complementary housing and contrasts it with the present policy of a Privately Rented Consumer Service for the poor, which has proved to be the antithesis of homeownership.

Contact: Bernard Ready

The Website

This web site is mostly concerned with the chaotic state of UK Housing Policy, which began forty years before the crisis of the Global Computer Economy, when the purpose of Housing Benefit was changed from poverty relief to a rent-subsidy designed to support a Private Rented Consumer Service. From the timing of these events, it is clear that the seismic event of the banking crash is unrelated to our housing crises and that excessive subsidies are the direct result of enforcing a Private Rented Consumer Service against the natural balance of the housing market.

From this analysis, it is also clear that savage cuts in Housing Benefit provide no sensible solution. Price Inflation

Conservative housing policy abolished the post war low cost rented housing system and replaced it with a high cost private rented consumer service. They made this policy very difficult to reverse by selling the publicly owned housing stock very cheaply. Two million houses (worth about £300 billion at current prices) were sold with discounts upto 70% of their market value. Their belief in the revival of the private rented system verged on the edge of insanity. It hasn't worked, it has failed to produce a supply capable of meeting the demand and, of course, it failed to offer rents that people could afford, which has necessitated a large increase in Housing Benefit.

Fifteen years ago this site pointed out that the escalation of Housing Benefit to £12 billion was being unrealistically sustained by a strong economy and predicted that a down turn in the economy would inevitably lead to a collapse of the policy. Well, the global credit crunch has brought us to that point in time. In the last ten years, Housing Benefit costs have risen fron £12 to £21 billion per year. The question now is whether sanity will return as housing policy moves into a new state of collapse.