The big debate: politicians’ pitch ideas for tackling affordable housing crisis

The background:

Following a front page story in November’s Hackney Citizen highlighting the dearth of affordable homes in this borough (Housing crisis: ‘Hackney as bad as Kensington and Chelsea’), Hackney Council’s Cabinet Member for Hackney Homes and Regeneration Estates, Philip Glanville, wrote an article on this website about what the Labour council is doing to alleviate the problem (How the council is tackling Hackney’s affordable housing crisis).

Below other councillors and prospective local politicians give their ideas for dealing with the dire shortage of affordable homes – one of the biggest issues facing residents here and across London.

Simon de Deney

Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of Hackney Simon de Deney

Simon de Deney, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of Hackney, writes:

Talking to people on the doorstep, on the streets or in the markets, we hear one thing over and over again: “I don’t mind gentrification, but it’s happening too quickly. It’s ruining Hackney.”

We’re in grave danger of following Islington. Here super-gentrification is leading to intensifying poverty, middle income families being squeezed out and, by 2020, the prospect that only the wealthiest will be able to live there.

Hackney Council’s failure over the last decade to promote a harmonious mix of affordable homes and social housing is effectively social cleansing by default. To take just two examples of recently approved developments, Dalston’s Western Curve has only nine flats out of 106 for social rent, while Dalston Square, out of 230 flats, has no affordable housing at all. And the long-term failure to maintain our housing stock is eating up what public finance is available.

We need a planning revolution. Community-led planning, where local people genuinely influence developments for the good of the whole community, could help us keep what is so joyously unique about Hackney. Our cultural diversity and richness gives us something that money can never buy, but which it can destroy: happy, sustainable communities where people care for each other.

 

Charlotte George

Charlotte George of Hackney Green Party

Charlotte George of Hackney Green Party writes:

There is a London-wide housing crisis and Hackney residents’ needs are being ignored.

The definition of ‘affordable’ is part of the problem. The Government says affordable housing is for people ‘whose needs are not met by the market’.

The Resolution Foundation think tank believes that you should spend no more than 35 per cent of your income on rent. Based on the average salary in Hackney, rent should therefore be around £896/month.

According to Shelter, the average house price in our borough is now £332,000 – up from £185,000 ten years ago – and private rents have soared to £1,380 per month. The council could have done more to address this, but the number of council homes has diminished and the housing waiting list has almost doubled since 2005 to 14,000.

What should they do now?

The Council could stop encouraging development of ‘luxury’ apartments that are not needed by residents and are often bought by overseas investors. It should obey its own guidelines on the minimum requirement for affordable housing in new developments. It should redefine ‘affordable’ housing to include more council housing. And refuse to evict people as a result of the ‘Bedroom Tax’, as Brighton and many Scottish councils have done.

 

Linda Kelly

Councillor Linda Kelly. Photograph: Marta Wlusek

Councillor Linda Kelly, Conservative candidate for Mayor of Hackney, writes:

As I understand it, affordable housing should be linked to a person’s ability to pay and should not exceed 30 per cent of the gross household income.

The Councillor [Philip Glanville] suggests that ‘affordable homes’ need to be built to help reduce the housing shortage in the borough, but we need to make sure they are within reach of the people who really need them.

How many residents in Hackney (who earn an average wage of £23,000) can afford to pay the prices being asked for the ‘affordable homes’ being built here, when starting prices are £425,000 in some areas?

Who are they expecting to fill these homes? Certainly not the average wage earner.

Under the banner of ‘regeneration’, the magic word ‘affordable’ is used too freely, whilst whole communities are being displaced.  People have made our communities by living here for years, even generations. However, the need to provide ‘affordable housing’ means that these communities are forced to move on to make room for those with bigger wallets, who can take out mortgages for an ‘affordable’ home.

I wonder what they know, if anything, about the lives of the people who were uprooted so they could live in their new ‘affordable’ homes.

It is time citizens of Hackney realise what is happening: communities are being replaced by dormitories.

 

Mustafa Korel

Independent candidate Mustafa Korel

Mustafa Korel, independent candidate for Mayor of Hackney, writes: 

The affordable homes crisis will worsen if communities continue being torn apart in favour of wealth that doesn’t benefit Hackney – like on the Colville Estate where communities are forcibly removed.

We need bold new approaches, unencumbered by party lines. Instead of speculating if central government might increase councils’ borrowing powers, there are practical actions we can take now.

I would have the Affordable Homes Action Group bring together voices of experience (like Shelter) and local communities that contribute towards a viable living policy, matching need to solution.

By scrapping Hackney Homes I would take back ownership of our council homes including derelict sites like those on Whiston Road.

Employing the underused Sustainable Communities Act will empower communities to breathe life back into neglected neighbourhoods. I would work with owners of empty properties, bringing them back in to use, like Kent’s successful model.

Finally, I would have The Hackney Mayor’s Lettings Agency provide security to private landlords who then provide secured tenancies on longer leases with affordable terms.

As an Independent Mayor, I would be uniquely positioned to break away from existing practices. I am enthusiastic about putting Hackney first and looking to innovative ways of working together to solve this pressing issue



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