My speech today at this "Affordable Housing" conference in central London.
"Thank you. As I think I am the only politician speaking today, I hope you will find our perspective of what we are doing in Newham of interest.
Like many Councils up and down the country, Newham is desperately in need of good quality, affordable social homes. For too long supply has failed to keep pace with demand, and a series of damaging Government policies have compounded to result in a disastrous impact on the lives of our residents. As house prices and rents have rocketed in recent years, many of our residents continue to struggle on low incomes.
· In Newham, the impact is stark:
- Nearly half of all Newham residents are now in poverty once housing costs are accounted for.
- Over 28,000 households are currently on our housing waiting list
- More than 5,200 households are living in temporary accommodation(remember this figure).
- And not only does Newham has the highest number of homeless people in England – shockingly, we have 50% more children in temporary accommodation than in the entire north of England.
We have an ambitious local plan to tackle this national crisis – and we are calling on the government and partners for additional action that will help local government to step up the building of truly affordable homes.
Our central argument in that the market alone won’t deliver what people need – you need bold action from government, partners and from local authorities to drive forward affordable housing delivery.
We have set out demanding plans for direct housing delivery:
o 1,000 new Council owned homes at social rent in 4 years.
o 100 started in the first year
o Half of homes delivered in the borough to be genuinely affordable
Our recently agreed Local Plan sets out over the longer term that we will deliver 43,000 homes over 15 years. We have the land available in Newham, and we have the ambition to make a serious impact on London’s housing crisis. We want to work in partnership to do just that.
Our approach to delivering affordable housing has 3 main objectives.
a. Direct delivery on Council owned sites &
b. More than 1,000 genuinely affordable homes paid for by grant
c. 1,000 homes for sale with all profits recycled into more affordable housing
a. Buy into third party schemes
b. Increased provision for a mix of permanent and temporary solutions as part of a housing pathway of homeless prevention and advice
c. Make full use of RTB receipts.
· Working within the planning system to increase genuinely affordable provision
· We have more than 4,000 affordable homes already with planning consent - of which 40 per cent have started
10 months in to our new administration in the borough, and we are already delivering:
We successfully bid for £107m from the Mayor of London’s Building Council Homes for Londoners Fund - the highest allocation of any London authority.
We have invested £500k to recruit a new housing delivery team, enabling us to have capacity and step up delivery
And we have made sure that our own housing delivery vehicle - Red Door Ventures – is focused on delivering the genuinely affordable homes that Newham needs. RVD is a 100% council-owned company, will be an important driver in the delivery of affordable homes in the borough in the coming years.
There is much more to do – but we want to work in partnership to deliver the genuinely affordable homes that Newham needs. For example, we are also actively looking into with other LA and investors whether our Council pension funds should invest in social housing.
Of course, this cannot just be about numbers of units – we need to involve people in the process. The key phrase of our administration in Newham is ‘putting people at the heart of everything we do’. That means genuinely involving people in decisions – including major decision about their local area.
There has been a strong feeling in Newham and many other communities that regeneration does nothing for the existing local residents – that it displaces local people and just pushes up rents.
It is a feeling that has developed over recent years as the housing crisis has worsened, despite major developments and luxury flats springing up across the capital. And it has also developed because local people do not feel sufficiently consulted and involved in the process. They have often felt ignored
So we will also be pioneering new engagement approaches to involve residents in decision making – in major development like the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.
Finally, as the only politician on the panel, I do need to point out the changes we need from government. We have ambitious plans in Newham. But we continue to be shackled by disastrous Government policies.
The housing crisis is worsened by the government’s damaging and poorly implemented welfare reforms.
And while the lifting of the HRA cap is welcome, we need more funding for local authorities to build the social homes that we need. We need subsidy to make homes truly affordable.
Crucially, we also need to see an end to the Right to Buy (RTB) policy, which continues to strip away our social safety net depriving our residents of hundreds of desperately needed social homes:
Since 1982, Newham Council has lost almost 10k (9,707) social homes to RTB. 1/3 of our stock. The high discounts, the low qualification period, and the restrictions around the use of RTB receipts also mean that it is almost impossible for LA to replace these greatly needed homes.
RTB not delivering its original intention of helping social tenants to purchase and live in their own home. Instead, it is increasingly supporting the growth of the private rented sector - it is shocking that nearly half of all these 10k properties purchased through RTB in Newham are now in the private rented sector. Remember I said earlier we have just over 5k homeless households. Do the maths
England needs to follow the example of Scotland and Wales and end RTB, as a crucial part of a package that will help LAs deliver Localism but also the homes we need in a sustainable way.
Thank you for listening