Sunday, February 01, 2015

Socialism or social cleansing

Around 5000 thousand people demanded Boris Johnson urgently tackle the lack of affordable housing in the capital and curb the spiralling rents that they warn are “ripping the heart” out of London. Organisers hope that the March for Homes, the first of its type to unify campaigners, tenants and trade unionists on the inequality caused by housing policies, will lead to a wholesale rethink. Campaigners hope the demonstration will draw attention to the developers increasingly targeting wealthy foreign investors with luxury apartments.

Evidence suggests that wealthy international investors are increasingly targeting the capital’s housing stock, with foreign purchasers buying 80% of properties in a series of major Thameside housing developments. About 54,000 homes are either planned or under construction in the most expensive areas of the capital, analysts saying that most will be prices at close to or above £1m. Meanwhile just one new affordable home is being built for more than every five sold in the social housing sector under the government’s revitalised right-to-buy scheme. Even offers of “affordable housing” still charge 80% of the market rate, some as high as £2,400 a month, more than most people’s monthly wage. Just recently the Chartered Institute of Housing reported that the number of social rented homes fell by 43,850 in 2013-14, a shocking statistic at a time when 5 million people are on housing waiting lists and homelessness is rising sharply. Ed Miliband’s pledge to build 200,000 homes a year isn’t a policy, it’s a sound-bite. In the unregulated private rented sector where they’ve risen 13% a year since 2010, inflating a housing benefit bill that is expected to reach £25bn by 2017, 40% of which has lined the pockets of private landlords.

We are living in one of the richest countries in the world, surrounded by homelessness, hunger and cold. People can’t afford to heat their homes in the winter and never have so many relied on food banks. This has got to change. It is important we stand together in solidarity and remind one another that our struggles are not isolated. No one will represent you but yourself. We don’t need to know anything more about housing – we need to do something about it. We need to stop scapegoating immigrants for the housing shortage and demand decent secure homes for all. 

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

Since December, the government has exempted anyone who turns an empty building into private housing from paying for further affordable units, even if they could do so and still make healthy profits. Among the first super-rich investors to have benefited from the change are the redevelopers of a luxury Mayfair apartment block in central London bought in 2013 by Abu Dhabi’s investment fund. Qatar’s ruling family could be next to gain if their agents seek a multimillion-pound cut in the affordable housing bill on a £3bn redevelopment of Chelsea barracks.

A senior official at Westminster city council, a Conservative-led borough, has described the government’s new vacant building credit as insane and estimated it could lose as much as £1bn in housing payments, deepening the accommodation crisis afflicting the poorest people. John Walker, director of planning at Westminster, who described it as “a government gift [to developers]”. He told the Guardian it has “sent shockwaves across all the boroughs”.

James Murray, executive member for housing at the London borough of Islington, said: “The real impact of this is to increase landowners’ and developers’ profits at the expense of the affordable housing we desperately need.”