Housing: No respite for the working class under London’s Labour Mayor

Homes for Londoners

In December 2016, London Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan launched ‘Homes for Londoners’ – his much-touted draft of plans to ease the capital’s housing crisis. In May, while running for Mayor, he described the election as ‘a referendum on housing’, and his manifesto promised that 50% of all new builds in London would be what he called ‘genuinely affordable’. The destruction of London’s council housing estates – so-called ‘regeneration’ – would only go ahead, he pledged, with majority resident support, and only where there was no loss of social housing.

These were just some of his lies. His Affordable Homes Programme 2016-2021, and its accompanying Draft good practice guide for estate regeneration, are a hotch-potch of broken promises, weasel words and sops to the middle classes and better-off sections of the working class who aspire to own their own homes and whose votes Labour is desperate to retain. Meanwhile, it will accelerate the dismantling of social housing, making it easier for private developers to push through their plans and harder for residents of working class housing estates threatened with demolition to resist.Cat Wiener reports.

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Housing In Brief

Bristol: private housing plans generate community fightback

Following a spirited campaign by local housing activists, with support from the RCG, in December 2016 Bristol City Council’s planning committee deferred granting planning permission for 135 luxury flats until plans were amended to include social housing. Now, developers are seeking to undermine this setback by appealing to national government at public expense.

Protests outside the council’s Planning Committee meeting in November 2016 marked the culmination of the first stage of campaigning that began six months before against property developers ducking their obligation to provide social housing. Under pressure, the committee – against the advice of its officers – decided that it could not rubber-stamp plans to develop Easton’s Chocolate Factory in their current state, and requested that the developers amend them. The site, located in a working class and largely black area of Bristol, was due to be turned into luxury apartments, of which only six would be sold at the slightly discounted ‘affordable’ rate.

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Who owns England’s green and pleasant land banks?

William Blake’s poem, Jerusalem, the anthem of conservative sentiment, gives a surprisingly true vision not just of England but of the whole of the United Kingdom. The majority of the UK’s 60 million acres are lightly populated and comprise vast swathes of empty countryside. Urban plot makes up just 6% of the land and is where 90% of the population of England, Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland live and work. The rest is 42 million acres of ‘agricultural land’ and 12 million acres of ‘natural waste’ – mountains, bogs, moors, estuaries and so on. Only 5% of England remains ‘common land’.

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Housing In Briefs - FRFI 254 Dec 2016/Jan 2017

Autumn Statement: smoke and mirrors

The measures announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Autumn Statement will do precisely nothing to resolve the housing crisis for the working class. The promise of £1.4bn to build 40,000 ‘affordable homes’ – with an additional £3.15bn for 90,000 in London – is the same old sleight of hand. Firstly, it begs the question: ‘affordable’ for whom? ‘Affordable’, ‘submarket’ and ‘intermediary’ rents are all euphemisms for anything up to 80% of market rents – ie unaffordable for the majority of people in most of Britain. In London so-called ‘intermediate housing’ requires a minimum salary of £57,000 a year. In southeast London, as the 35percent.org campaign has discovered, Southwark Labour Council’s new planning policy for the Old Kent Road ‘regeneration’ now allows developers to decide for themselves what constitutes ‘affordable housing’. Secondly, there have already been massive handouts of government money to private builders to tackle the housing crisis. In the words of economist Paul Mason, this has simply resulted in ‘a glut of luxury apartments and a shortage of homes for ordinary people’.

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Newcastle Labour Council: cutting to the bone

On 12 October, Newcastle Labour council opened its latest cuts budget to public consultation. The package details a further £70m of cuts to public services over the next three years, with £30m to be cut during 2017-18. Overall, Newcastle’s budget will be slashed by £291m between 2010 and 2020. Along with all other local authorities, Newcastle will rely entirely on business rates and council tax for its income by 2020.

In 2010 Newcastle council received £164m of support from central government. The council has cut further and deeper than has been demanded of it, using a reduction in funding of £164m to justify ripping £291m of resources from the city’s residents. Every Labour councillor in Newcastle has voted for every cut passed in Newcastle since 2010. Now they can hide behind a rule change agreed at the 2016 Labour Party Conference which makes them liable for expulsion for abstaining on, let alone voting against a legal budget.

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