Catherine West MP with Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan
Catherine West MP with Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan

London’s housing system is broken; we have been experiencing a housing crisis for decades. Not only is the government not building enough houses, but we also have a chronic lack of social housing. This has fuelled a dependency on expensive rented accommodation and led to thousands living in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

In a place like Hornsey & Wood Green, where the median house price is £625,000 (way above the national average of £250,000) and the median earnings are £39,100, home ownership is an impossible dream for most.  Young people growing up in the area are forced to move away, spend more time living at home, or struggle in very expensive privately rented housing which means they are not able to save for a deposit. It’s a catch 22 situation.

The Conservative Party has failed to grapple with the housing crisis for over a decade and whilst luxury high-rise flats stand empty, the social housing waiting lists rise and thousands live in homes unfit for human habitation. By failing to build enough homes, the Conservative’s recklessness has further hiked house prices and made the simple act of home ownership a luxurious dream for many.

I believe we need to tackle the housing crisis in two ways: build genuinely affordable and sustainable homes and implement fundamental reform to the private rented sector to make it more stable, secure, and affordable.

Sadly, there is a desperate shortage of genuinely affordable, high-quality housing in Haringey that meets the needs of everyone in our community, including disabled people.  Despite thousands of people on social housing waiting lists, Haringey Council only relets around 350 properties each year meaning that most families will struggle for many years in overcrowded and unsuitable homes.  Haringey’s Labour Council are doing everything they can to build more council housing, but a decade of Tory austerity has seen budgets for affordable housing slashed.  Locally, I’ve consistently called for 50% of all new developments of 10 or more homes to be genuinely affordable at social rent.   In Parliament, I have repeatedly urged the Government to fund and build more council and other genuinely affordable homes.

Second, I believe there should be serious reform to the private rented sector, and I support London Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan’s campaigning for a system of private-sector rent control that works for our city.  The average rental value in Hornsey and Wood Green today is £420 per week. That is grossly unaffordable for so many people.  We also need tougher action again the rogue landlords who leave vulnerable tenants in damp, poorly maintained homes and drive down standards in our neighbourhoods by failing to properly manage their properties.

In Parliament, the Conservatives have voted against Labour plans for longer tenancies and secure rents, scrapped our plan for a register of landlords, watered down legislation for councils to license private landlords in their area and rejected Labour amendments to their legislation to bring in legal minimum standards for private rented properties. These are all policies that I believe would help alleviate the pressure on private renters. I would also support raising the standards for private renters by introducing new legal minimum standards to ensure that private rented homes are free from serious faults such as unsafe wiring and appliances, problem damp and vermin. I want to support councils to meet their obligations to vulnerable tenants and will also support them to license landlords in their area – helping to drive up standards and identify the minority of landlords who are not looking after the needs of their tenants.

Everyone should have the right to a decent, safe, affordable place to call home.  Unfortunately, the reality is however many hours you work or however much more you earn, rents still eat up too much of your pay packet. And however hard you try, if you fall on hard times there’s often no safety net to catch you and your family if you can’t pay the mortgage or the rent.

This has to change.

 

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