Karen’s Latest Article for the Wood and Vale

Posted: 06/02/14

London is gripped by a deepening house crisis at almost every level, and most Londoners are worried about it. A poll last week showed 82% of Londoners agreed that there is a housing crisis, with the issue topping the list of concerns in the capital for the first time ever. Since then, 3 new pieces of information have added to the pressure.

Firstly, the average cost of a London home passed the £400,000, pushing home-ownership further out of reach then ever for middle and lower earners. Meanwhile, rents have continued to rise. To an average of £1278 a month in inner London for a two-bed flat, and £938 in outer London.

The second news item showed a modern record number of young people living in the family home, with i in 3 young men aged 20 to 24 still having to live with their parents.

Third, it was revealed that London local authorities have paid out £500 million towards the costs of emergency accommodation since 2010 as homelessness has soared. In Westminster alone, the emergency accommodation bill reached £111 million.

The response from government, Mayor and Council alike is staggering in its short-sightedness and cynicism. The ‘Help to Buy' scheme assists first time buyers, but can't in itself boost the supply of new homes, so more competition for existing homes sees prices spiral. Westminster Council shows little interest in negotiating a share of affordable homes on development sites, despite having money in the bank for exactly that. The government wants to sell off council and housing association homes in inner London, turning their backs on the ‘mixed communities' they claim to support. . The Mayor supports investment in new homes for the well-off only, and any new homes being built for lower-income households are to be let at much higher rents, thereby pushing up the benefit bill and making absolutely sure that work cannot pay.

It does not have to be like this. Building homes for middle and lower-earners creates jobs, cuts homelessness, reduces the benefit bill and eases the terrible strain being piled onto families and communities across London. This means it is not just the numbers that are important, but the type, location and affordability of those homes. It is a challenge neither our Council, Mayor or government are showing any signs of rising to.