Harriet Harman

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

Southwark News Column: Southwark's Housing Crisis

Where you live is one of the most important things. To be in a secure home in a good neighbourhood is basic. And that means that there need to be enough homes for people who want to rent - which they can afford. And enough homes for people who want to buy - at a price they can afford.


With 12,000 people on Southwark Council's housing waiting list, and house prices sky high, many turn to the private rented sector. But because Southwark is so close to the centre of London the average cost of a privately rented two bed flat is £2,000 a month. Such high rents mean that local people are forced to move away.


Many people in Southwark either own their own home or want to. But with house prices also sky high, many can't afford to. One of the reasons that house prices in central London are so high is that there are not enough homes being built. Under this Government house building fell to its lowest level in 30 years. And ‘Help to Buy’ still doesn’t get people on to the housing ladder because, even if they can afford a mortgage, they can’t get a deposit. That's why we need more shared ownership properties.

It’s so important that Southwark Council is building 11,000 more council homes. Council tenants currently have the right to buy their homes at a discount. But the problem is the Government didn't keep its promise to replace them.


Now the Government is planning to give tenants in housing associations, like council tenants, a discount to buy their own homes. There are currently 16,500 housing association tenancies in Southwark and under the new policy an estimated 8,600 of these homes will be opened up for tenants to buy.


Southwark's housing associations like L&Q, Hyde, Family Mosaic, AmicusHorizon, Wandle and Metropolitan provide much needed affordable housing for families. They tell me that this is not the right policy for London.


To pay for the housing association discount, under these new proposals, Southwark Council will have to sell off its most expensive properties, when they become empty, including 30% of the homes they’ve just built.


The Government has promised that under this new scheme sold off properties will be replaced on a one-for-one basis. David Cameron promised the same thing for every council home but that did not happen – for every ten homes sold, only one has been built.


There‘s a housing crisis in Southwark with people not able to afford to buy, private rents too expensive and long waiting lists for council and housing association homes.


The Government should be building more homes for sale, helping people get the deposit they need to get on the housing ladder and helping councils and housing associations build more homes to rent. But instead their only housing policy is to extend Right to Buy to housing association tenants which will mean a very few people will get on the housing ladder while waiting lists for council and housing association homes will only grow.

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