A Labour London Assembly Member has called for local authorities in the capital to provide thousands more homes for social rent – what used to be called council homes – and for the scrapping of the Thatcherite Right To Buy policy which has skewed, and screwed, the housing market, creating spiralling house prices, for the past 40 years.
Tom Copley was responding to to today’s publication of housing charity Shelter’s report, A Vision for Social Housing.
Copley is Labour’s housing spokesman at the London Assembly, and his comments ought to give many councils – including Labour-controlled Croydon – serious pause for thought.
In Croydon, there has not been a single new council home built since 2014. Under schemes put forward by the council-owned house-builder Brick by Brick, a grand total of ZERO homes have been delivered since the company was formed in 2015.
Of those Brick by Brick homes that are being built, using public property and public finance, more than 60 per cent are going for private sale. The rest are to be unaffordable “affordable” homes, offered through schemes such as high-cost shared ownership. None are intended as council homes.
Copley’s remarks illustrate the gulf between progressive social policy as advocated in today’s report by the large homelessness charities, such as Shelter, and what councils are actually delivering in London.
Progress MP for Lambeth South, Steve Reed OBE, greeted the Shelter report with a bleat on Twitter this morning about the hardships caused by the housing market. Yet his constituency includes parts of Croydon where the Labour council is using public open space to build homes for the same lucrative private market.
And meanwhile, Reed’s former council colleagues in Lambeth are following through on policies instigated when he was council leader at Brixton Town Hall, conducting social cleansing of hundreds of council homes on estates such as Cressingham Gardens, which are also to be developed for private sale.
So when Copley begins his statement today by saying,“For this Government, social housing has sadly been an afterthought,” he might do well to also consider the practices of Labour local authorities, too.
As Copley points out, fewer than 8,000 social homes have been built in London over the last five years.
“With more and more people being forced into the all-too-often precarious conditions of the private rented sector, it is clear that we need to see a historic renewal in social housing to provide safe, secure and affordable homes to Londoners,” Copley said.
“In our capital, we are witnessing the burning injustice of thousands sleeping rough on the streets and trapped in temporary accommodation, alongside a rise in the hidden homeless population.
“Shelter’s plan for social housing sets a benchmark for the level of ambition that we need to turn this dire situation around. The Government must now pull its weight, and work with the Mayor by putting the funding in place to secure the 30,000 new social homes that London needs each year.
“But it’s no good building new social housing only to lose precious existing council homes to Right to Buy. The Government must end this policy, which has resulted in the loss of 287,303 social rented homes in London in the past 40 years.”
Which is, after all, the nub of the predicament.
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The right to buy has been abused in the case of the sons and daughters of elderly council tenants who sell off the flat or house when mum or dad dies. making a nice profit.
Can’t blame these people for doing what we all would do,, but we should blame the rules that allowed this.
The abuses of Right To Buy are scandalous enough, but the real issue is the heavily subsidised transfer of public property into private hands in the first instance, compounded by the Tory policy of refusing to allow local authorities to utilise the receipts from these bargain basement sales to replenish their housing stock. It is that which has created the shortage of council-owned social housing over the past 40 years, forcing people into the private rental sector.