CROYDON 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.
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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