Croydon’s ‘MasterPlan’ only makes housing crisis worse

Housing genericCROYDON COMMENTARY: Last week’s announcement by the Conservative Party that they want to give housing association tenants the Right to Buy has not impressed regular commenter, ROD DAVIES

The Right-to-Buy proposals are just plain mad, but perhaps in Croydon they have even worse potential consequences.

The borough’s planning “MasterPlan” envisages a Croydon where the only future major housing development will be contained primarily within the town centre and the immediate peripheral areas, a little bit along the A23 and in New Addington. Everywhere else in Croydon would acquire a protected status where anything beyond low density developments would be prohibited.

However, Croydon as a town has a major housing crisis, especially for the average resident and those on less than the average wage. There are thousands of people in desperate need of decent housing that they can afford on their incomes. Wages in Croydon are not high by London standards and Croydon has struggled to create employment opportunities.

As Nigel Farage pointed out in the recent television debate, house prices are determined by supply and demand. It was about the only thing he said that was right.

But it is absolutely correct, and if we decide that all developments in Croydon can only occur in a very small area, that will impact the economic law of supply and demand. By restricting home-building to a limited area, that immediately restricts the supply of land, and so the price of land goes up. That’s good news for developers and land-owners, but it is not much good for those looking for a first step on to the housing ladder.

If the price of land goes go up, then regardless of how high the developers build their tower blocks, it is inevitable that the final product will be so expensive as to be unaffordable for local residents desperate for a decent home.

The Island development in central Croydon, where two-bed flats are on the market for more than £400,000

The Island development in central Croydon, where two-bed flats are on the market for more than £400,000. Similar properties in Saffron Tower and the Eldridge cost £500,000-plus

But if Croydon as a whole is unable to provide enough affordable homes for people on average incomes, then surely it is the responsibility of the whole town to make the necessary sacrifices to enable sufficient affordable homes are built.

Yet the council’s “MasterPlan” proposes that the home-building burden shall fall in very small areas, and in order to provide the quantity of housing needed, these developments will be skyscrapers (which everyone says they don’t want).

By concentrating the bulk of future social housing into the centre, it will inevitably place an enormous burden on the existing communities in and adjacent to the centre. This in turn would reinforce socio-economic divisions for another generation or two.

The proposed extension of Right-to-Buy would simply exacerbate an already very bad situation by removing a public resource and it would inevitably lead to community breakdown. House prices have been rising during the recession and despite austerity. Wages, meanwhile, have been virtually static. And social housing rents are set as a percentage of private rental property.

Already there are stark contrasts beginning show; London Road in Broad Green and Cherry Orchard Road look abandoned and are slowly becoming more and more decrepit, denied investment over the years despite having to shoulder the burden of very high density development that will make vast sums of money for the developers.

Addiscombe’s retail area has had vast public sums poured in to revive it, with wider pavements and shoppers’ parking bays; yet the immediate locality that its serves is protected from new developments.

If half of the population has no reasonable prospect of ever living in a decent home and their children are denied the facilities and space enjoyed by the protected communities, then these people will have little interest in sustaining a society that shows no interest in them.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Croydon’s ‘MasterPlan’ only makes housing crisis worse

  1. Peter Rogers says:

    Haha you said ‘future social housing’ as if there might ever be social housing in the future. Surely we all want to get on the housing ladder as ‘hard working families’ regardless of if we can afford it. Me? I’d rather have a home than an investment

    • Rod Davies says:

      I think, Peter, that you have hit the nail on the head. At the heart of the matter is how we perceive housing. We all need food, clothing and shelter to survive and to be able to live reasonably. Our economy needs workers who are fed, clothed and provided adequate shelter as a basic, and if we can’t provide these then the fabric of our society begins to come apart. It is striking that Croydon’s “halcyon days” were from the 60’s to the 80’s when the vast majority of people in Croydon could expect to obtain these basics.
      In UK we regard housing as a primary popular investment vehicle, and thus we are actors in a market in which those that own property have a prime interest in restricting supply, and promoting strategies that protect and advance their environmental factors that enhance the value of that property. Political parties are acutely aware that once we become property owners our willingness to sacrifice our exclusive interests for the community radically diminishes, primarily because we are greedy. We invest home ownership with immense social value far beyond its functional value.
      Using home ownership as a social metric by which we judge ourselves and the health of our society is illusory. By expending the bulk of our income on bricks & mortar, we are inherently making a choice not to invest elsewhere in our lives. By severely restricting the supply of affordable housing thereby driving up property prices, we have created a situation where the income of the young transfers to the old, who own property. But ultimately this is self-defeating, because if a greater and greater proportion of the younger generations current and future wealth is transferred to the old, then it limits the range of choices available to the young and also reduces the amount of money available in the economy that can pay for the public services that the old consume so much of. We already have the absurd situation where wealthy (cash & assets) old people receive subsidies from young working people who are significantly poorer.
      Frankly we are in a mess!

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