This year marked 100 years since the Addison Act – legislation that paved the way for councils to build social housing. What better way to celebrate and honour this ground-breaking Act than to get councils building again? There are somewhere in the region of 11,000 local authorities in the United Kingdom, if all of them pledged to build just 20 homes on secure fixed tenancies, at traditional social rents that is nearly a quarter of a million truly affordable homes.
Whilst I champion council housing, I also understand the need for mixed tenancies as well, I myself benefited from a 65% market rent ‘working persons’ option which lifted me out of homelessness in 2015. However, the majority of people on housing waiting lists cannot afford the standardised ‘affordable’ option which comes in at 80% of market rents.
The Mayor of London has gone some way to address this with the ‘London Living Rent’ and ‘London Affordable Rent’ – which is close to traditional social rents, but I think local authorities can go one better.
Councils should correlate affordability to average local wage levels, ensuring that ‘affordable’ means no more than a third of the average local wage on a borough by borough basis.
We’ll be told that this isn’t viable. However, the truth of the matter is that if the political will is there it can be done. It’s time to challenge the notion of ‘viability’. Basing a development on a 15-35 year return hikes the rents up and is contrary to the interests of millions across the country, pushing many further away from the security of a home.
The political system is so caught up in electoral cycles that for the most part we have stopped signing off on legacy projects. I expect a new home to be standing and habitable for generations. If councils, developers and ALMOs base their models on a 45-65 year return, we can start to make real meaningful inroads that provide housing at lower, traditional rent levels.
I’m running to be Labour’s GLA candidate for Havering and Redbridge and if I am selected housing will play a large role in my campaign. I’ll fight to deliver more council housing but make sure that we aren’t overdeveloping to the detriment of existing communities. That means sustainable place making and bringing the community with us on all decisions.
I’ll advocate like for like on all regeneration projects to ensure that families and community networks are preserved, and people aren’t moved on against their wishes. Regeneration shouldn’t be a code-word for social cleansing.
I’m also in full support of the Mayor of London’s call for rent controls. If I make it to City Hall, I’ll work with the Mayor and local authorities to extend licensing schemes, delivering more rights for renters.
There is much more to say but for now I will end where I began.
This year marked 100 years since the Addison Act – legislation that paved the way for councils to build social housing. What better way to celebrate and honour this ground-breaking Act than to get councils building again?