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FALCONER CAUGHT UP IN PREFABS ROW

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Housing minister Lord Falconer was embroiled in a 'have and have-nots' row after suggesting key workers could be ho...
Housing minister Lord Falconer was embroiled in a 'have and have-nots' row after suggesting key workers could be housed in a new generation of prefabricated homes, according to The Sunday Times (p5).

The new homes - small estates and tower blocks built from individual prefabricated units - would be a vast improvement on the homes pioneered in the 1940s to deal with the post-war housing crisis. They have become popular among architects working for housing associations and other social landlords because they are cheap and fast to build and allow for good design. The most obvious drawback is that they tend to be small.

Lord Falconer described the new homes as 'comfortable, beautiful housing' that would solve the problem of public sector employees who could no longer afford to live near their places of work. He cited a block of 30 apartments in Hackney LBC as a model for his proposals. The two-bedroom units were delivered with bathrooms ready tiled, floors carpeted and cupboards and wardrobes pre-installed.

Teachers' unions said their members wanted to be part of a property-owning responsibility rather than getting special help.

NAS/UWT general secretary Eamon O'Kane said: 'We certainly don't expect teachers as a long-term prospect to be living in prefab accommodation'.

The National Union of Teachers said: 'It doesn't deal with the long-term problem of the unaffordability of housing'.

Opposition politicians said the plan would return Britain to conditions last seen in the 1950s, when thousands of families were housed in emergency schemes after the blitz.

Shadow DTLR secretary Theresa May said: 'It's a bit rich for Lord Falconer to tell workers in public services they have to live in prefabs. It's a bit like Two Jags Prescott telling people they should not use their cars'.

The Liberal Democrats said councils should have powers to deal with the housing crisis facing many public sector workers.

Over the weekend, Lord Falconer defended his comments. 'I'm not saying they [public sector workers] should be put in prefab units. I'm saying we want to do as much as we can to ease the crisis. The fact that I have property does not mean I am not concerned about other people's housing problems'.

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