This week marked further disaster for London’s housing crisis. London boroughs, like the council I lead in Redbridge on London’s eastern outer edge, already, sadly, have one of the lowest levels of housing stock in London, a sad but familiar remnant of many years of Tory rule here.
Thanks to the Housing and Planning Act, which finally crawled its way onto the statute book last week, local authorities like ours are going to be in a race to build more housing to keep up with demand, while at the same time only recovering around half the actual market value of the property, with no compensation from central government. How do Tories deem this a sustainable way to operate?
Indeed, with many people in temporary accommodation across London, with some in Redbridge on waiting lists of up to 11 years, it is likely that these most vulnerable people are going have to wait much longer in future because of this purely ideological Tory policy. It really is clear that this act is set to have a detrimental impact on those who really need it.
While it goes some way, in the short term at least, in supporting some with purchasing and owning their own home in an otherwise tough market, options like ‘starter homes’ may not be a sufficiently affordable product at any rate. It is projected that an ‘affordable’ home in Redbridge will likely cost upwards of £300,000; and sales of council housing stocks are going to do nothing to support local authorities and their budgetary constraints, let alone residents in the longer term.
David Cameron’s clear lack of understanding or real care for Londoners struggling to live in this ever-growing city is evident. Recycling and extending populist, and disastrous, policies that were developed during the Thatcher era demonstrates their goal of further eliminating much-needed council housing from our capital, leaving London only for those who are well-off – and even then, what can we call well-off these days?
As we saw from data released by Sadiq Khan during the London mayoral elections earlier this month, some Londoners in even the more affluent areas of London are paying upwards of 62 per cent of their income into rent – hardly sustainable for anyone on any income level.
The Cameron government should be looking at more innovative ways to ease housing pressures, increase ‘real’ affordable housing stocks in private developments, and extending first time buyer grants. All of this can only be achieved by government working with local authorities.
The passage of this act should not mean Labour giving up. We need to stand united and continue to fight – we should all continue to lobby and fight these and other laws that have and will be introduced by this government.
Jas Athwal is leader of the London borough of Redbridge. He tweets @Jas_Athwal
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