Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Southwark News column - 14/09/12



Every week people contact me desperately asking me to help them get a council home - young people who've grown up in Southwark but want to move out of their parents home and have a home of their own; young couples starting out on family life; people who've moved to Southwark for a new job and need somewhere to live - the need for homes that people can afford is obvious.


Private rents are so high that they are well out of reach of many.  Because Southwark is so close to the very centre of London the average cost of a privately rented two bed flat in Southwark is £1,456.54 per month.


So, for many Southwark residents, a council home -  on average £362.50 per month for a two bed flat - is the only way to rent a home of their own. 


But as the need mounts, the government is making things worse:

* cutting back on housing benefit which is needed for rents in inner London

* forcing Southwark to cut £8million from its Supporting People budget - which helps fund hostels for local people who find themselves homeless people - as a direct result of government cuts
* telling property developers they no longer need to listen to local councils who set aside a percentage of new homes for "affordable" homes as a condition of getting planning permission

* cutting the budget for new affordable homes by 60%


As the need grows, it gets even harder for the council to help people with their housing.


So it is all credit to Southwark Council that they are finding ways to mitigate the effects of central government policy and are going to build 1,000 new council homes.  Between 2002 and 2010, not one single new council home was built in the borough.


But we shouldn’t forget about people who are in private rented flats.  In Southwark more than 16,500 households rent from a private landlord.  We need to clamp down on rogue landlords and letting agents and we are formulating a way to tackle soaring rents in the private sector.


As well as new council homes, we need our existing council homes to be kept modernised and in good condition.


The council have set up the Independent Commission on the Future of Council Housing in Southwark.  Drawing on the concerns of thousands of tenants who have come to ask for my help over the years, I have submitted a report to the Commission.  You can read the report on my website http://harrietharman.org


Your home should be somewhere you feel comfortable and safe, somewhere you take pride in.  Its hard to do well in your work or bring up your kids the way you want if you do not have the home you need.  Its time for housing to move up the political agenda - in government and in the Town Hall.


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