David Cameron’s announcement this week that developers will no longer have to provide “affordable” homes (in the sense that the homes are marginally less overpriced than what the speculators might wish) is “another nail in the coffin for social housing”, according to one of Croydon’s most senior councillors.
“We have a lengthy housing waiting list, and this proposal is a stunning kick in the teeth for those in housing need,” Alison Butler, Croydon’s Labour-run council’s deputy leader, who is in charge of the borough’s housing.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement at this week’s Tory Party Conference, Butler said: “Under Cameron’s plans, our affordable housing offer in Croydon would be homes costing £450,000, which is well beyond the means of most of our residents and only affordable to the well-off.”
Butler says that the average salary in Croydon is £27,000 per year. She reckons that a £450,000 home would be “affordable” only to those earning £77,000.
“The housing crisis in London means that councils such as Croydon are increasingly having to make use of costly and unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation,” Butler said.
“Cameron’s starter homes scheme will only worsen the situation and put more families in B&Bs, as affordable rented homes currently offer councils an avenue in which to place homeless families.”
Butler also predicted that the prospect of the Tory changes for the benefit of property developers will see many planned schemes delayed until the new rules are in place, to the developers’ obvious advantage.
“The situation is compounded by making local authorities sell off properties to fund the replacement of homes sold under the extended right-to-buy scheme, again those in most housing need are the losers,” Butler said.
“It is vital that we build more social housing so we can meet housing need. Cameron’s plans will deepen the housing crisis and further alienate struggling families, cutting them off from the rest of society.”
Croydon’s housing department, under Butler, has been under such pressure of demand for homes that it has been using under-sized flats in Thornton Heath to try to cope.
Instead of using costly B&Bs, the council rents 189 apartments in Concord and Sycamore Houses for temporary accommodation. The majority are smaller than the minimum standards set by the Mayor of London. The flats include some as small as 19 sq m. The minimum recommended size is 37 sq m.
Property companies converted the former office blocks into accommodation using permitted development, which allowed offices to be converted into flats without planning permission. Croydon Council has banned the use of permitted development in central Croydon since last month.
Butler has in the past described the creation of such under-sized dwellings as “the slums of the future”.
Butler excused the council’s use of the under-sized flats in Concord and Sycamore Houses: “We have an increasing number of families approaching the council as homeless. So we had to make a very difficult decision.”
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