London's Tenants Protest Over Costs Of Affordable Housing
Around 2,000 Londoners marched on City Hall today over the rising cost and lack of affordable housing across the Capital. As the lack of social housing because more acute and Londoners are forced out of the capital tenants see now as a good time to raise awareness on the problem as we head towards the general election. There are calls for rent controls across the Capital as rents continue to spiral out of most peoples reach and the shortage of new affordable homes means that prices continue to rise.
The current government is opposed to rent controls which is a way of capping the levels of rent increases each year and it is highly unlikely that this policy would be introduced under a Conservative government. The Labour Party have said that it is keen to introduce rent controls as a way of making homes more affordable. This policy is favoured by most of the UK's private rented sector which now totals circa three million tenants.
Instead of rent controls the conservative is keen to increase the supply of new homes but despite efforts to increase the number of homes in the social sector the number of new homes built still remains at all time lows. The Conservatives have reinvigorated the "Right To Buy" scheme that was introduced by Margaret Thatcher back join the 1980's. This has been welcomed by many council tenants but only one in five of the homes that are sold to council tenants are being replaced with new stock. The money that is raised from the sale of council houses is supposed to be earmarked for new council homes but this has not been happening on the ground.
Shortage of homes for teachers and nurses
There is a deepening crisis in the social sector as families are split up and are forced to move away from London in order to find a home. Housing for teachers and nurses is also an issue and this is having an affect on recruitment of staff across the capital. London is not the only place where rents are being driven up as tenants are forced out of the capital.
The south-east generally is suffering from an acute shortage of social housing which not surprisingly is having a negative impact on local communities and social cohesion. Unfortunately immigrants are also being blamed for the crisis as some sectors of society wrongly accuses them of being given priority over local people when it comes to social housing. There is no evidence of this and some experts believe that it is being used as a wedge to drive communities apart and causing division in some communities.
It is all very well the Labour party banging on about how little is being done to alleviate the pressure on housing but they had 13 years in which to increase the supply of social housing but fewer homes were built under the Labour regime and this has certainly contributed to the problems that we see today. The situation for tenants have been made worse because of the recent introduction of the bedroom tax where council tenants are forced to pay a tax on any spare bedrooms that they have. This has had an impact on some of the poorest tenants in our communities and has pushed some tenants into poverty.The Conservatives have also reformed housing benefits for London's tenants. The amount of housing benefit that is paid out has been drastically reduced and this has also forced tenants to move away.
Councils taking action over empty homes
Also voicing their concern on the March were pressure groups who are keen to highlight other issues such as Boris Johnson's attempts to demolish some of the capitals council estates only to be replaced by flats that sell for over £1m. There is now way that these homes can be afforded by Local people and most of them will be sold to wealthy landlords. some of these properties will not even be occupied but will instead be left empty as wealthy individuals take advantage of the rising house prices across the capital.
This has been dubbed "Buy To Leave" and is forcing some boroughs across London to take action. Islington Council has introduced new laws to stop buyers from buying flats and leaving them empty. In the most extreme cases Landlords can be taken to the High Court and big fines can be imposed.
Landlords must now prove that their properties are let by providing the identity of their tenants and proving that the properties are occupied. This policy has not been adopted by all councils who will be watching to see if this is a good way to boost their coffers. This will not only increase the housing supply but will also increase the amount of council tax that is paid to these councils.