Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"drive slum landlords out of the market" London Labour Conference #LabLon17

Housing motion 1 (my speech)

"Conference, John Gray, Chair of Greater London Unison Labour Link moving motion 1 on housing as amended by compositing.

Conference, You may be surprised that unison, a union which is a predominantly public sector trade union has submitted a motion that concentrates on reform and change of the private rental sector.

I am in fact a housing worker who has worked in social housing in London for the past 25 years. However, it is a fact, particularly in London that more of our members now live in private rental sector than in social housing, many of whom due to poverty pay, are dependent upon housing benefit, to live in damp, overcrowded, expensive and insecure accommodation. So while unison campaign strongly in favour of a mass building programme for public homes at a social rent, the private rental sector is key to us and I would imagine to all of you here today

What inadequate levels of local housing allowances means (at the risk of teaching some of you to suck eggs) is that hundreds of low paid Londoners are being forced out of London or face spending nearly all of their disposable income on making up their rent. Housing benefit will not cover the full real cost of the rent.

I have trade union members who have responsible jobs delivering public services who rely on food banks and 2nd or even 3rd jobs in the evenings and weekends to pay the rent and survive.

Even public service worker on better pay find London completely unaffordable. Recently the chief executive of a large London housing association said that many of her staff and I quote “lived in shared houses, or even shared bedrooms, or living in places that are disgusting. If they were in the social sector we would consider them homeless in those circumstances.

This is not unique and I am sure all of you here will also be able to share horror stories about friends, family or work colleagues being exploited and living in similar disgusting housing conditions but who live in fear of even challenging their landlord because they fear eviction for doing so.

So this is why we not only desperately need rent controls and more affordable rents in London we also need greater security of tenure and protection from eviction when tenants complain against disrepair and exploitation.

We do need borough wide licensing of landlords but also we also vitally need guaranteed minimum standards for all. We cannot just licence slum landlords and take fees from them we must drive them out of the property market.

Finally conference, as important as radical reform of the private sector is, I must agree with our key note speaker Emily Thornberry in her speech yesterday that the solution to the wider housing crisis is quite simple. Just build more homes.

Thank you. Please support the motion".

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