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Progressive London: Housing foundations for the future

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

This year’s Progressive London’s conference takes place on 19th February and housing will be top of the agenda with session entitled “Housing – Foundations for the Future” which will discuss the progressive alternatives to the present housing policies that experts believe will force 80,000 Londoners to leave their homes.

Labour Mayoral Candidate Ken Livingstone, who is hosting the Conference, said: “The Tories’ attitude to housing can be clearly seen by the results of their policies in London. Between 2000 and 2008 156,181 new homes were built, an average 19,522 a year. Since Boris Johnson was elected in 2008 house building has fallen significantly, just 25,700 new homes, an average of 12,850. If the Tory Government and the Tory mayor’s policies are not reversed then London will become a housing no go area for the ordinary people who keep this city alive. Londoners need homes, homes they can afford, and homes that families can live in.”

Stephen Cowan, Labour Group Leader at Hammersmith and Fulham Council, who will be speaking at the session said: “The present governments housing policy will directly lead to greater segregation and larger poor communities. It has been shown that 80,000 Londoners will be forced to move if changes to housing benefit, the ending of security of tenure and the forcing up of the social housing rent cap to 80% are introduced. Now is the time for Labour to set a new and progressive housing agenda.”

The Progressive London Conference will take place on 19th February 2011 at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.  More details from www.progressivelondon.org.uk

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London Labour Housing off to a flying start

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

Last night’s launch of the London Labour Housing Group was an astonishing event.  Getting on for 200 people packed the Grand Committee Room in Parliament, full to overflowing.  Chaired by Nicky Gavron AM, guest speakers were Ken Livingstone, Karen Buck MP, and Linda Perks from Unison.  Alison Seabeck MP, Labour’s shadow housing minister, popped in from the Committee on the Localism Bill to wish us well.  The audience included MPs, councillors, unionists, tenants and Labour members from all over the capital, with outer London as well represented as inner.

Ken’s speech ranged over 4 decades of housing policy in London, the peaks when boroughs like Camden were producing 2,000 homes a year and the GLC had a target of producing 10,000 a year on top of the boroughs’ efforts, and the troughs when Thatcher was in power and the Tories held County Hall and all programmes were cut back.  If Labour policies had continued through the 1980s, it can confidently be said that London’s post-war housing crisis would have been overcome and the city would be totally different today.  Councils need to build again and we need to find ways of bringing private rents under control.  But our policies must also meet the needs not just of the poorest but of the many Londoners, people earning up to £70K a year, who can no longer afford to buy and also have limited housing options.  As London’s population continues to grow, genuinely radical policies are needed if the capital is not to resemble Paris, with the centre of the city occupied by the rich and the poor consigned to the outskirts.

Karen Buck MP

Karen focused on the changes to housing benefit and the local housing allowance.  She contrasted the number of people predicted to have to move from their local areas under this policy with the furore over Lady Porter in the 1980s; her attempts to remove the poor from Westminster were miniscule compared to what will happen now.  The danger lies in the range of changes combining together to force people on low incomes to move, but increasingly it was being realised that there is nowhere for them to move to.  If people attempt to move from expensive to cheaper areas the impact of the increased demand will be to raise rents at the lower end of the market – which would be catastrophic.  Rising homelessness, growing unemployment, increasing rents, growing dependence on private rented accommodation, all of these pressures would increase the HB bill; the policy would be devastating in effect but counter-productive in saving money. 

Linda emphasised the impact of the cuts on local government in London, and the fact that councils would be cutting back on front line services at just the time that people need them most.  It was important to link what was happening in housing to other sectors, especially health, because it was all part of a single policy to roll back the state.  She stressed the importance of getting maximum support for the TUC national demonstration against the cuts on Saturday 26 March in Hyde Park and pledged Unison’s support for housing campaigns in the coming months. 

There were around 30 contributions from the floor, identifying weaknesses in previous Labour housing policies, the issues being faced in the boroughs, the links between housing, employment, health and education, and ideas for future campaigns.  There was a strong focus on the need to win the Mayoralty in 2012 with a strong and radical housing policy.  The new London LHG will help develop those policies but also support a range of housing campaigns because the issues will not be properly addressed until we have a Labour Mayor in 2012, more Labour boroughs in 2014, and a Labour government whenever the General Election comes.

You can join Labour Housing Group at http://www.labourhousing.co.uk/join-lhg and contact London Labour Housing Group through steve@hilditchonline.com