HOUSING: Not just a roof and four walls

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Monday marked National Housing Day – a celebration of social housing across the UK and a reminder of just how important council housing is for millions of people nationwide.

Without council housing I certainly wouldn’t have the opportunities I’ve had so far in my life.

One of my favourite photos is of my mother when she was three years old, standing outside her grandparents’ council house in Clayport Gardens, Alnwick. This would be while my mum, her sisters and her parents had received their own council house to be proud of in St George’s Crescent, near the top Co-op.

Both these houses were built after 1945, when Clement Attlee’s Labour Government built more than a million homes, with a huge portion of these being properly built, affordable, council-owned houses.

Without this support, my family may never have had the means to raise my mum and give her the best they could give, preparing her for working life and giving her the resources and knowledge to be such a fantastic parent to me, for which I will always be grateful.

The importance of social housing runs deeper than just a roof and four walls. It’s about our families, it’s about our history.

Alnwick and the surrounding area has lost a huge amount of this social housing, just like every town and city in the UK – sold off by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s without replacing or updating the housing stock that had been lost.

The houses weren’t the only thing to go; the community spirit that grew out of these close communities has often been lost too.

More is lost with each town and village in Northumberland that becomes increasingly gentrified as house prices rocket and private rental conditions worsen.

We need to support local families and the residents of the future by fighting for this sort of housing throughout our county.

In this spirit I’d like to say Happy Housing Day to everybody in and around Northumberland.

James Matthewson,

Alnwick