Nearly half of Westminster’s 22,000 council homes have been sold through Right-to-Buy in the past 30 years, and because government rules don’t allow local authorities to keep the proceeds of sale the properties haven’t been replaced by further social housing. Of course many of the flats purchased under Rent to Buy have been recycled into Private Sector renting – I personally know of 4 people who were able to retire to the country in middle age on the proceeds of the Right to Buy windfall which could be as much as several hundred thousand pounds in extreme cases.
This has left the council with a situation where they are paying housing benefit to tenants who are renting ex-council properties from private landlords – and this costs the council around four times the rent charged for a council home rented directly from the council, and on occasions up to five or six times the council rent.
What a mess – but probably not a mess that the government wishes to acknowledge as it stems from a conservative policy a generation ago, rather than something that can be neatly pinned on the last government.
Why is Housing the most Important Issue Facing London?
New Labour coined the Mantra “Education Education, Education” , relying on the concept that a new generation of educated citizens would vitalise an economy and profit our way to wealth. Yet if those children do not have a decent place to live, the ability to sit quietly and read or do their homework away from their siblings, they will continue to lag behind their more affluent schoolmates. If teenagers do not have a decent place to live, they are more likely to be on the streets when they should be at home, potentially being drawn into gangs and anti-social behaviour. If parents and children do not have a decent place to live, they are more likely to suffer health inequalities. If adults do not have a decent place to live, they are more likely to say, “What has society done for us?” “Why should we obey the law, pay taxes, vote in elections?”
I’m lucky, I am a property professional with a commercial line in finance and a solid Pimlico base of property to secure future property investment. have a decent home. My daughter wants to buy a London Flat, but as a qualified teacher and head of literacy in a major comprehensive she cannot raise the deposit and loan necessary to compete with investors, mainly from overseas, looking for a bargain in a difficult market. She can probably get a small mortgage cannot afford the large deposit now demanded by banks – not on a teacher’s salary!
The media are talking about a generation that will not be able to afford to buy their own homes. First time buyers are frozen out of the housing market while investors ensure London property prices continue to rise. That’s why housing is the priority for the Government, Local Authorities, and the Mayor of London.
There is a lot of land under the Mayor’s control, mainly Transport for London land that can be used to build such homes. With the most expensive element of building in London, the land, available to developers at little or no cost, even commercial investors, could still make their profits and give Londoners decent homes at genuinely affordable rents.
The dream of a property-owning democracy is a good one but investors will always distort the London market and most Londoners simply cannot afford to buy. That means the priority must be to build decent, genuinely affordable homes for rent. Not creating sink estates exclusively for those on the lowest incomes, but building developments where young professionals live alongside those unable to work – in vibrant, mixed communities. And if people are happy to live in these homes, maybe that could take some of the heat out of both the rental and homes for sale markets in London.
Would you like a Housing Minister Painting to Decorate your Flat? You only have one day left if you want a painting by Housing Minister Grant Shapps to Decorate your Flat – or maybe as a Christmas gift to a friend who is an admirer of the government minister’s hands off approach to government Housing Policy. His hands off policy extends to the painting which is very recognisable as the chamber of the house of commons, but comes with the caveat that it has been “enhanced” by British artist, Julie-Anne Gilburt. No jokes about enhancement of coalition housing policy during the season of goodwill please!
The painting is being auctioned by eBay and at the time of writing I am the highest bidder – I just consider the price well worth paying for the opportunity to register eBay feedback to the minister! Plus for a good cause 80% of the proceeds will go to The Willow Foundation founded in 1999 by the former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper and TV presenter Bob Wilson and his wife Megs as a lasting memorial to their daughter, Anna, who died of cancer aged 31.
Anna battled cancer for five years, yet it was during these years that she, her family and friends, experienced some of their most memorable moments and quality times – treats, days out, concert trips and time simply spent together. The Willow Foundation provides special days to give seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds a break from the stress and difficult realities of diagnosis and treatment. They offer the chance to spend quality time with family and friends doing something they will all enjoy and creating precious memories. Willow strives to create a unique and unforgettable day that is tailored to the needs and dreams of every beneficiary. He or she chooses exactly what they would like to do on their special day and Willow aims to meet and, wherever possible, exceed their expectations, making the day truly special and memorable, the charity takes care of every arrangement, including transport, to ensure a stress free and enjoyable day for all.