Housing has become the latest election hot potato. Each party is seeking to outdo each other in how many homes they build: Labour say 200,000 a year, Lib Dems 300,000. Astonishingly, the Conservatives propose dealing with a huge shortfall in housing by selling off social housing and giving huge subsidies for that purpose. Billions are to be spent subsidising the sale of housing association homes, which they will force through. And in another move, which is absolutely typical of the Conservative Party’s systematic destruction of local democracy, they will force council’s so sell their best homes. Is this just another transparent election bribe?
The message is clear: all the parties still cling to the belief that the market can solve the housing crisis. I believe that this is proved to be false. The market, which the Conservatives in Westminster and in the form of Boris Johnson in City Hall, have now proved that left to itself, the market will never provide the homes we need. Boris Johnson’s administration has permitted their friends in the construction business to water down the requirements for even the so called ‘affordable’ housing.
This has led to ever spiralling rents and house prices.
The new Conservative policy of forcing the sale of housing association homes will destroy aspiration: every person hoping to set up home, to leave a parental home and establish a family home, to move to an area to take up employment, to stay living in the area where you were brought up, where your family, friends and support networks exist, all gone. If you have the misfortune to be born in London then the chance of you being able to establish your own home will be extinguished for all but the very rich.
And we are already observing the social cleansing of whole areas of London by so called ‘social landlords’ like Poplar HARCA. Balfron Tower has been cleared. The Brune Street estate in Spitalfields might be knocked down. And why? So that flats can be built or renovated for sale to rich incomers.
As we have seen with properties which have already been purchased under ‘right to buy’, so many of them end up in the hands of property speculators who let them out pushing rents far out of reach of local people.
I notice tonight that Freedom of Information Requests have revealed that 10 Labour Councillors in LB of Newham own numerous properties in their Borough. In one case 10 properties. The stench of corruption hangs over the whole business.
These are just some of the major issues which have to be acknowledged before a comprehensive solution can be found to this situation which creates a sense of hopelessness for so many people in our Borough.
The Green Party propose doing what no one has the guts to promise apart from us: build houses with public money, affordable by people on modest income: social housing. And lots of them. 125,000 in London alone. We would mainly pay for these homes by ending the absurd tax break which landlords can claim on buy to let mortgages. This subsidy amounts to £5.4 billion a year. We have found that there is plenty land for these homes and we don’t need to build on the Green Belt. The homes would be high quality and very well insulated making them cheap to run. We would end the right to buy.
We also have policies to tackle the scandal of unaffordable private rents (five year leases, rent control, a register of landlords).
I don’t say this will the whole solution. But this is a crisis and big policies are necessary. The coalition government have done nothing, far from it. The crisis has got worse and worse. Our policies make a good start at addressing these problems.