Cities of London and Westminster residents experience the housing crisis at its most acute and extreme. Families are forced to move away from their communities because there just are not enough genuinely affordable homes. From Middlesex and Mansell Street and Golden Lane to Tachbrook and Churchill Gardens, from Hyde Park to Pimlico, families are living in overcrowded conditions, where children find it difficult to study. Private renters across the Cities are left with no certainty about the future of their home and soaring rents.
Let’s not forget that Conservative politicians in Westminster were responsible for a loss of affordable homes in the Homes for Votes Scandal and for 50 years, Westminster City Council was at the forefront of efforts to limit the obligations of local authorities to homeless people. In advance of the original Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, Westminster tried to persuade MPs to water down the legislation. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, WCC developed ways of ‘gatekeeping’ homeless people from accessing their rights. Thousands more received ‘offers’ of insecure tenancies in the Private Rented Sector creating further inequality and leaving them in uncertainty.
Last week, the Conservative Government has announced two poorly thought-through policies which do nothing to address the long-term housing crisis or tackle the immediate struggles that households are facing.
The Right to Buy for Housing Associations has been trailed for years by this Government. I’ve been campaigning against it ever since it was first suggested. Some Housing Association tenants already have a preserved Right to Buy as a result of living in a home transferred for a Local Authority. Housing Associations themselves are deeply sceptical about the proposals with many of them questioning how the homes sold under the Right to Buy would be replaced. I hope that Housing Associations will stand up to these policies.
The proposals for tenants to use Housing Benefit to pay for a mortgage reveal a serious lack of understanding of the challenges families claiming Housing Benefit face. The Government has provided no evidence for how many households would have nearly enough savings for a deposit on a home. It is not clear with mortgage lenders have been consulted on any of the detail of the proposals or whether they are prepared to bring forward mortgages in these circumstances.
It says it all about this Government that when they run out of ideas, that they turn to the failed policies of the 1980s Thatcher governments.
Instead of these policies which will just reduce the number of social homes, Cities of London and Westminster needs a MP who will stand up for long term sustained Council Homebuilding Programme. I’ve delivered council homes in London and championed delivery of council homes across the country. Cities of London and Westminster needs and MP who believes that Housing is a Human Right and who would call for a review of homelessness legislation putting Housing as a Human Right at the heart of the process. But at the moment, there simply are not the resources available within local authorities to administer this system.
The Homelessness Reduction Act must be funded properly and Local Housing Allowance cap must be lifted. After decades in which their experience has been disregarded, it is vital that the voices of homeless people are listened to by decision-makers. As a housing activist, these are the issues that I have campaigned on for years and as the first ever Labour MP for Cities of London and Westminster, these are the housing proposals I would stand up for.
NB: RB would be open to any contributions from any other candidate running for selection in Two Cities as well as other constituencies.