The Tories’ Housing Bill will devastate our united community

11th March, 2016 1:58 pm


Lewisham is a special place. Like much of London we’re a vibrant, mixed community.  In Lewisham, people from all backgrounds live together, shop together, we even demonstrated to save our local hospital together. But the Tories’ Housing and Planning Bill will devastate our united community.

When I was growing up my family found ourselves homeless, social housing gave us the security we needed to rebuild our lives. Without it we would have stayed bouncing around between different private rented properties left at the whim of private landlords often out for maximum profit.

If the Housing Bill becomes law – though Labour Lords are doing their best to stop this – existing council tenants face a new tax on working families, with the government being able to charge thousands of pounds extra for people to stay in their homes in what the government calls Pay-to-Stay. In reality, working families will either be forced out of work or out of their home – adding to the growing despair faced by homeless families in London.

The Government is also scrapping lifetime tenancies for council tenants – the bedrock of how our communities stay mixed and lower-income families can put down long-term roots and provide a secure a stable home for children to grow up.

Councils will lose virtually all their remaining powers to force private developers to build genuinely affordable homes. Developers will be able to just build ‘Starter Homes’ worth up to £450,000 after the 20% discounts have been applied. These will go on sale to first time buyers lucky enough to have a £100,000 deposit in the bank and on incomes of well over £80,000 so that they can afford the mortgage. This is not affordable housing.

After a few years these homes can be sold on the open market at full price and the seller keeps all the profit and even the hint that these were ever affordable homes is lost forever.

I am completely opposed to a Tory government who think the solution to the housing crisis is to make affordable housing unaffordable and less secure, it’s a disgusting attack on the vast majority of us who are being priced out of the housing market.

Lewisham has a radical housing tradition that I’ve been proud enough to be able to build on. Under our Steve Bullock’s leadership our local councillors and myself, as Cabinet Member for Housing, we have worked closely with the community to get as many new social rented homes as possible, we’re building 500 council houses – the first in a generation.  Our new Pop-up homes for homeless families and our urban self-build community land trust, providing a new cooperative model of housing, are both the first of their types in the country. This demonstrates that the answer to the housing crisis doesn’t have to be shipping families to parts of the country where there’s no jobs like some Tory councils are doing. Finally, we’re also getting more genuinely affordable shared ownership and intermediate homes for local people built, despite the Tories putting developers’ profit before peoples’ needs. But if the Bill becomes law then developers will be off the hook and councillors won’t be able to stop them.

We have to defeat the Housing Bill. Lewisham came together to fight the Tory attack on our hospital and now the Labour movement across the country needs to stand up and stand together against this assault on affordable. In Lewisham we will be marching with friends from across the country on 13th March to march against this bill and show this government what makes our party really special, its people.

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