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.