Labour’s London Borough’s are responding to the housing crisis – we must ensure that others do the same
It’s widely acknowledged that London is in the middle of a housing crisis. An increasing population and a lack of new development means we have a sizable gap between those needing to find a home and those that are available.
In the first quarter of this year, just over 3,000 homes of all types were started in London, a 50% reduction from the same quarter in 2007. In the same period, 3,760 households were accepted as homeless in the capital. When the numbers of homeless households out strips the number of homes being built, you know we have a very serious problem.
It is in this context that we expect the London Mayor to make good his election promise to deliver 55,000 new affordable homes by 2015. In my new role on the Homes for London board, I will be working hard to ensure that this is achieved. The cost of not doing so is too great to contemplate.
Labour’s boroughs will no doubt be providing the vast majority of these. We are the ones most willing to build new homes. But many have rightly recognised that this is not enough to meet growing demand.
In my own borough of Lewisham, we’ve made the decision to build 250 new council funded homes over the next five years, and are consulting over the next few months about ways to build even more.
Southwark have pledged to build 1,000 new council homes by 2020, and Islington are making great efforts to find innovative ways of funding new homes that are genuinely affordable to local people.
It’s clear that the Tories in central and local government do not share our determination. Grant Shapps regularly talks of tackling the housing crisis, but his actions do not match his words. The kafkaesque ‘Affordable Rent’ does little to meet the needs of ordinary Londoners and his promise that homes sold using increased right to buy discounts will be replaced one for one is nonsensical.
The housing crisis we face is only going to worsen unless we act. It’s estimated that by 2033 London will have more than 700,000 additional households who will all be in need of a home.
Labour boroughs are showing that they are committed to providing the homes we desperately need and demonstrating how we really can make a difference. As we begin to look towards 2014, housing will no doubt form the platform for labour manifestos across the capital. Our record of delivery will hopefully convince the electorate to return more Labour councillors and allow us to build the homes that will meet the demands of future Londoners.
Sir Steve Bullock is Mayor of Lewisham and leads on housing for London Councils.