Saturday, March 31, 2012

Housing Voice Independent Inquiry: London & SE

On Thursday I made a verbal submission to this inquiry. Housing Voice is the "campaign alliance established to champion the need for more affordable homes to buy or rent". The inquiry is gathering evidence across the country on ways to combat the "affordable housing crisis". Lord Larry Whitty is chairing the inquiry (seen in centre of picture with panel members Steve Hilditch and Michael Ward).

Heidi Alexander MP for Lewisham East and on the CLG Select Committee (left) spoke as did UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis.  There were 18 speakers listed! "Housing Professionals Voices", "Voices of those at the sharp end"; "Labour Voices", "Local and Regional elected" and "Other voices".  There were politicians from across the political divide. Residents and a wide range of other people with interest in affordable housing took part and contributed.

There was disagreement about the solution but no-one denied that we have an appalling housing shortage and that homes are currently unaffordable especially in London. Access to land with permission to build, planning and finance seems to be major barriers. Solutions offered included housing co-operatives, deregulation (House Builders Federation) and greater regulation (of private sector including rent controls: not I think supported by the HBF), funding from pension funds.

I think the role of public funding is absolute key and while there is a lot that can be done to improve supply and affordability at the margin, without a significant funding in state funding we will not resolve the crisis. We will only get the funding when we can raise the political interest in housing to match that of education and health.

Labour London Assemby member Valerie Shawcross was the last speaker. In the Q&A some Housing Associations got a bit of a pasting from the politicians over their variable management standards, being so fragmented, inefficient, arrogant and unaccountable.  

I'll post my submission later.


Anonymous said...

Why dont you stick up for Newham and say there is afforable housing in Newham. Why dont people move in to Newham?

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me why the housing association home built on Katherine Road / Pashet Road are so over priced?.

Housing Associations are failing to build affordable home. They were more expensive then existing homes.

It seems Housing Associations want to hold on their the empire.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

I don't really understand your first point? While I would always "stick up for Newham" I was at this enquiry with my trade union hat on not as a Cllr.

There is also far too few "affordable homes in Newham and people do move into Newham all the time.

I don't know anything either about the particular home/scheme you mentioned. This government has slashed grants for new builds.

Yes, housing associations have failed to build enough affordable homes and under this government it is going to get a lot, lot worse.

Anonymous said...

The housing scheme, I refer to was opened by Stephen Timms. It was in the Newham Recorder. The price of those housing associations homes, was ridiculous and more expensive then existing homes.

London has 32 different Boroughs. Each Borough is priced according to the locality. Houses in Bethnal Green cost more then those in Stratford. But should house prices be priced this way? Should n't there be housing price equality throughout London?

Newham is at the bottom in house prices. My home has lost 30% of its value.

When people say they can't afford houses in Camden. Why don't they buy in Newham. As a Councillor, you should have been acting as an ambassador for the area and saying we have cheap houses (compared to rest of London).

I am frustrated, as the gap between house prices in Newham and other areas is growing. It is frustrating me, as I can't move out.

I have spoken to a few (honest) estate agents in Newham. I am told frankly the housing market has been dead since the credit crunch.

If I want to sell up, forget it. I was told, to rent out my home and rent where ever I want to live. I don't want to take such risks...

John Gray said...

Hi anon
I don’t recall that story but I would be surprised if the prices were above the market price? (or they would not sell?).

Property prices in London are too high and I think unsustainable. I had thought that prices had risen in Newham during the past 12 months unlike other areas of London but they are down (as the rest of London) from the pre 2008 peak.

When I first bought a flat in 1989 it went into negative equity following the property crash but it did eventually recover.

I think the real issue is that this is not a Newham thing but the property market as a whole is in trouble and it needs the government to take active economic measures to rescue it.

We have the land and certainly the need but we are paying unemployed workers to stay at home on benefits rather get them in work building homes and reflating the economy.

Anonymous said...

Evening Standard 12 January 2012

"According to new research on successful house sales across the capital, the number of property deals remains significantly depressed almost five years after the start of the credit crunch.

The WORST afflicted area is the Olympic borough Newham, where the number of homes sold is almost 70 per cent down, according to estate agent Savills."

John Gray said...

Hi anon

Not sure what your point is?

Anonymous said...

The average price of a two bedroom in Newham is down by £50,000 since the credit crunch. You have people in negative equity. The Olympic has done nothing to increase prices in Newham and bring them on par with other London Boroughs.

"I was at this enquiry with my trade union hat on not as a Cllr." - so why did n't you sell the area. According to the BBC, Newham house prices are 31st lowest in London, with only Barking being cheapest area in London.

When you speak of affordable housing, it is not for people like me (tax payers). I will never be able to move into a more expensive area. You only want more affordable housing for people on benefits. I can't afford to live in Islington, but you want my taxes to pay for brand new homes for people to live there. It does n't sound very fair.

You also speak of rent controls. So, if in your West Ham, they build a few new stations, it means rents cannot go up to reflect the improvement. Nor do you want it seems to allow Newham to be on par with other London Boroughs. We need equality in London house prices and rents.

John Gray said...

Hi Anon

People are in negative equity all over London and parts of the UK. As I have said before I was in negative equity myself in the past so I know it is worrying if you have to move. However, do not forget that that the reasons why house prices have fallen is that crooked financial executives decided to enrich themselves by selling mortgages to people who could not afford them and/or designing toxic financial products that paid their bonuses but made no financial sense what so ever. You have been cheated but blame those responsible.

While I think that Newham is better placed than most of London to grow in the near future house prices in London are just too high and unsustainable. We need land tax and rent controls to get them to an affordable level (IMO)

I don't think you really realise that I was giving evidence to an enquiry on "affordable housing". I also don't think your right wing rant about those on benefits helps your cause either? Since I was putting forward a trade union view then by definition, it is on behalf of those in work? even if many of our members earn so little that they have to rely on benefits or tax credits. The simple truth of the matter is that the overwhelming vast majority of my members cannot afford to buy a home afresh anywhere in London.