Richmond blog #7: Housing crisis is result of Tory policies

Suddenly, housing is going up the political agenda. Last night, the BBC news reported on homelessness and how even middle class professionals, such as nurses and teachers, were finding themselves without anywhere to live.

Earlier this week, it was reported in the Evening Standard – oddly enough in the property pages aimed at those who can afford to buy – that Richmond council is facing a crisis because so many families are presenting as homeless that they are going massively over budget to accommodate them. The reason: the new benefit cap which means that they can no longer afford to live in the private rented sector any more. So the Tories are creating this crisis and refusing to provide the money to help councils deal with it.

In fact, it is Tory policies that are causing the longer term housing crisis that is affecting millions of Londoners. Last year just 6,550 new homes for social rent were completed in the whole of England – that’s a fifth of the total in Labour’s last year in power and the lowest level for more than 20 years. The Tory government also insists that local councils prioritise so-called affordable housing ahead of social housing – at 80 per cent of market value it is anything but affordable. They encourage private developers who put up luxury housing which is then sold to foreign investors. Boris Johnson when he was mayor used to boast about the number of homes being built but his dirty little secret was that most of these were luxury flats that did nothing to help Londoners.

The Tories have also refused to protect people in the private rented sector from landlords who are taking advantage of the crisis to hoik up rents. At the last election, Labour promised to cap rents in the private sector, which clearly is now becoming even more urgent since so many people are finding it impossible to pay them.

Where are the Tories or the LibDems on this issue? Why do they never talk about the housing crisis except in the vaguest terms. Let’s set it out clearly. This crisis is a result of a series of policies pursued by the Tories and it will continue to get worse unless the root cause is recognised. The solution is simple. We need a lot more social housing, and for ‘affordable’ housing to actually be affordable. Labour is committed to building a million homes over five years – half of which will be council homes.

Social housing requires a small subsidy to get built but, since tenants pay rent that covers a substantial part of the cost, it is money well spent. It is not just about  providing housing – it offers stability to communities and the opportunity for people on low and middle incomes to no longer have to worry about having a roof over their heads. It is about stabilising communities, something the Tories talk about but fail to do anything about.

Only the Labour party is talking about these issues. The Tories have admitted – in private – that they hate social housing because they think it creates more Labour voters. They argue, wrongly, that it requires massive subsidy. The pressure is now on. The BBC report clearly showed that social housing is the only long term solution. Building it would not only provide homes, but also create jobs. Money is easy to borrow at low interest rates at the moment. There is nothing to prevent a mass programme of social housing, except Tory ideology.

  • PHIL THOMAS

    Wolmar is just a carpet bagger. Does’nt even live in Richmond. Only a short while ago he wanted to be Mayor of London. Only interested in following the Corbyn far left line.

  • GreenDragonReprised

    It all goes back to Right To Buy.

    The purpose of Right to Buy wasn’t just to transfer housing stock from the public to the private sector, it was also to undermine the business case for building council houses.

    Simply put, the business case from council house building was based on assumed rental income for decades to come. As soon as that income was no longer guaranteed, because tenants could invoke the right to buy with huge discounts, the business case for building was gone, and building all but stopped.

    To revive social housing we need a two pronged approach. Firstly Right to buy must be abolished and secondly, local private sector rent panels re-instated to ensure private sector rents are affordable once again. This second measure will result in savings to the Housing Benefit budget as HB goes to landlords not tenants.

  • Wayne Phillips

    That’s a little unfair – Christian didn’t back Jeremy in the recent leadership election.
    He is not domiciled in Richmond though, that’s correct

  • Alec Lever

    £27billion of taxpayers’ money is laundered into the bank accounts of landlords and property developers via housing benefit to pay high rents in a market where supply and demand are deliberately mismatched. 200,000 good houses could be built for half that money and save taxpayers around £10billion. Building Social Housing is a good way to bring down debt. The losers would be the likes of Goldsmith’s campaign backers who top the Sunday Times Rich list. So while Tories are in power its not going to happen.

  • Paul Holt

    How much affordable housing would fit onto Hyde Park? Having done that math, should that affordable housing be built?

  • M J Bruce

    We presume you will be voting for Zac

  • Alec Lever

    Goldsmith first ran as a non dom. Christian doesn’t need a carpet bag, he cycles home.

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