CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Housing will be a key issue on May 3

12 April, 2018

• IT won’t surprise anyone to know that Camden is one of the most expensive places in the country to live.

Average house prices are 22-times household income, and average rents on a new private let 67 per cent of household income. Rents are high even for London: only Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster and the City of London are more expensive.

According to the 2011 census, 43 per cent of households in West Hampstead were in private rented accommodation (vs 32 per cent across Camden) and, more worryingly, 31 per cent of West Hampstead households were defined as having “one fewer room than required”.

In short we’re facing a housing crisis that hurts us all and this is clear for all to see in West Hampstead.

As a school governor I know how hard it is for public services to hire young people, as few can afford to live locally any more.

Families are split up as young people have little choice but to move far away from their parents and from the communities where they grew up. Private tenants struggle to put down roots as they’re forced to move on when their rents almost inevitably rise.

Our communities become less diverse and less cohesive, with a consequent and visible decline in civic responsibility.

Despite all of this, inexplicably, the Conservative government has cut investment in affordable house building by half.

Affordable house building in the UK last year was at the lowest level in 24 years and the number of new social rent homes built each year has fallen by 80 per cent since 2010 when the Tories came to power. Home-ownership is also down by 200,000 since 2010 and rough sleeping has doubled.

However Camden Labour is fighting back by building more council housing, giving private tenants greater protection and helping key workers and people on low incomes stay local through Living Rent homes.

This is all despite only 2 per cent of Camden’s £1billion+ CIP community investment programme funding coming from central government. Since 2010 Camden’s Labour-run council has:

• built 229 new council homes and 79 Living Rent homes for key workers (for example, nurses & teachers);

• introduced a landlord licensing scheme for all homes in multiple occupation, which ensures that all such properties are inspected for health and safety;

• supported a strong tenant voice by funding CFPT, a voluntary sector tenants’ organisation;

• exempted our poorest residents, plus care leavers and foster carers, from paying council tax;

• set up a social lettings agency for homeless families; and,

• imposed a 150 per cent council tax on empty second homes to deter “buy to leave” investors.

And Camden Labour wants to do even more. The government should free the council from borrowing restrictions – so we can build more council housing – and allow Camden to reinvest all proceeds from right-to-buy in this mission.

Councils need more powers to ensure rental properties are safe, and this government should end the shameless cuts to housing benefits which are making people homeless.

The Conservative government have not fixed the housing crisis; they have made it worse. A vote for Labour on Thursday May 3 is a vote for a council that will do all it can to find solutions on housing.

SHIVA TIWARI
Labour candidate for West Hampstead ward

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