CROYDON COMMENTARY: The housing crisis shows no sign of easing, as home sale prices and rents in London, and Croydon, continue to rise. DAVID CALLAM identifies a worrying possibility over the council’s action on the Menta development of more yuppie apartments on Cherry Orchard Road
Croydon Council slapped notices on the site of the Menta Redrow development on Cherry Orchard Road just before Christmas, forbidding work from continuing until a £360,000 Community Investment Levy is paid over.
This amounts to complaining about the symptoms and ignoring the disease.
Local authorities were prevented from investing in public housing by Margaret Thatcher and John Major for ideological reasons. Better to create a nation of property owners, they believed, who were then more likely to vote Conservative.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown maintained the ban on public sector housing, helping to engender the chronic shortage of homes that we have today.
The present Westminster and London governments bang on about “affordable housing”, by which London Mayor Boris Johnson means properties for sale at 80 per cent of market value. By that reckoning, “affordable” must be reckoned to be something like £400,000 for a three-bedroom apartment in a development where such property is being sold off plan for nearly half a million pounds.
But there is silence from both major parties when it comes to any large-scale programme for public housing subsidised from the public purse: unless you give any credence to Ed Miliband’s modest little plan to build fewer houses per year by 2020 than current estimates suggest will otherwise be the case.
And without a grand plan, tax payers’ representitives, in the form of naive local government officers, continue to be ripped off by spiv developers who insist that “the market”, which these days means foreign buyers, will not allow them to include significant numbers of really affordable homes in their schemes.
If the local authority challenges the developer, the developer walks away and waits for a more friendly political regime to take control. There is no penalty to them for doing so.
Might it be the case that the Menta company with which Croydon Council signed an agreement to grant planning permission now has no money in its accounts. If that were the case, what would be the point of suing them?
I’m told there is no shortage of accommodation in Greater London, but much of it lies empty and is not fit for human habitation.
The figures are endorsed by Boris Johnson, but there is a point worth noting: that all London’s councils, including Croydon, have the power to requisition empty property, bring it up to standard, let it and collect the rent until they have recovered their costs.
The boroughs use this power sparingly, for fear of upsetting the landlords.
What will Croydon’s Labour council do about reducing the borough’s housing shortage? Is it already too tightly bound by secretive agreements with developers to be able to do anything?
And could a future Labour Government really be trusted to introduce some kind of rent control for our big cities, or find the money for significant public sector house building?
- Londoners being priced out of London by social cleansing
- Council orders halt to work on Menta site because of unpaid levy
- Council backs developers to allow Croham flat conversions
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Jan 3
- Purley and Coulsdon debating society: Philp v Benn, Jan 5
- David Lean Cinema, Mr Turner, Jan 8
- David Lean Cinema, Leviathan, Jan 13
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, The 78 Project Movie, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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