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How London’s councils can tackle the housing crisis head on
10 December 2018
Having a home is a basic need and secure housing is a fundamental foundation for people in their lives. However, the housing crisis in London means too many people lack decent, habitable and affordable homes, with wide-ranging consequences for their families and our communities.
My borough Newham, is on the front line of London’s housing crisis. Recent figures released by housing charity Shelter confirm what we have known for some time – our residents are facing the biggest housing challenges in the country. We have 28,000 people on our housing waiting list, 4,800 households in temporary accommodation, and last year 418 were identified sleeping rough on our streets.
There are a number of factors which have contributed to this desperate situation – a combination of relatively low wages, high levels of deprivation and population churn and rapid increase in housing costs. It is also the tragic result of central government’s relentless austerity drive, welfare cuts, and the long-term attack on social housing.
Stepping up house building
The scale of the challenge is huge but I am determined the council will play a leading role in tackling the housing crisis head on. We need a massive housebuilding programme to address the scale of the problem and that means the public sector, and councils, stepping up to deliver the genuinely affordably homes that the market alone has failed to provide.
In Newham, we are working with our partners such as the Mayor of London to ensure we can maximise the opportunities available to us to build the homes at social rent we so desperately need. We have set out plans to build 1,000 genuinely affordable homes by 2022, and we will be working with partners to achieve even more. East London is booming, and we have a huge opportunity to make the most of the land available to boost housing delivery. However, more needs to change nationally if we are to make the most of this opportunity.
Councils need Government backing
The government lifting the HRA borrowing cap is an important step to enable greater council investment, but it does not go far enough. We need additional funding to deliver more genuinely affordable homes at scale, and we need to end the disastrous Right to Buy policy that has led to a dramatic loss of social housing and undermines the efforts of councils to deliver.
Local government has a crucial role to play. Together, we can tackle the housing crisis head on, and build communities by delivering decent, quality homes and pleasant, mixed neighbourhoods.