Liberal Democrat mayoral hopeful outlines ambitious plan to fix ‘broken housing system’

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Simon de Deney. Photograph: Julia Gregory

A council house-building company could help fix a “broken system”, according to the Liberal Democrats’ mayoral candidate.

Simon de Deney has ambitious plans to create much-needed homes without relying on partnerships with private developers.

He said: “It seems to me that the system is broken across every single aspect of housing.”

Housing was one of his top priorities when he ran in the Hackney mayoral election in 2014, and it still is today.

“Affordable housing unlocks so many things,” he said.

Traffic would reduce if more people can afford to live locally, he explained, and people would be better able to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.

De Deney wants the council to be fully in charge instead of teaming up with developers, who then have the right to sell a proportion of homes on the open market.

“If you set up a local housing company, the borrowing does not have to come off your main bill,” he said.

“They are not governed by right-to-buy legislation, so you can build council houses and not have to sell them on.

“The stock would still be owned by the council, and that could be offered at genuinely affordable rents.”

If elected, de Deney would aim for every council development to be made up of affordable housing only, in an effort to tackle the long waiting list for homes.

“One hundred per cent social housing would be the starting position,” he added.

He welcomed the work of campaigns like Morning Lane People’s Space and said the council needs to speak to residents more often.

“It seems very shortsighted and costly not to talk to people, and it also delays you getting on with anything.”

He added: “My instinct is actually it has to be community-led rather than council-led.”

De Deney is not in favour of scrapping the mayoralty: “I have too much I want to do and the house-building plan will take time.”

He is concerned about proposals to close two primary schools and merge four others because of falling school rolls.

A number of parents have campaigned against the closure of Colvestone Primary in Dalston.

De Deney, a former school governor in Hackney, said: “If my kids were going there, I would be absolutely outraged.”

“Primary schools can be a fantastic catalyst for social change,” he added. “I do not think we are using them to their full potential.”

Like other councils, Hackney faces making cuts to its budget.

De Deney is hoping that a change of government will see councils get a financial boost. If he becomes mayor, he would look at what can be done to protect services.

Part of the mayor’s role is to hold regular meetings with local police chiefs, who have come in for criticism in recent times, particularly in light of the Child Q scandal.

De Deney has worked with former gang members to help them into employment, and said: “You have to work with people. If there are things that are systematically wrong with an organisation, you should challenge that, and I am not afraid to challenge the police.”

He also called for community-led policing, with resources directed where residents say there is a need.

He said it was important to reassure residents affected by the recent outbreak of violence in the Middle East.

“What is marvellous about Hackney is its diversity, and we are stronger together,” he added.

The candidates standing for election on Thursday 9 November are: Zoë Garbett, Green; Caroline Woodley, Labour; Peter Smorthit, Independent; Simon de Deney, Liberal Democrats; Simche Steinberger, Conservatives; and Annoesjka Valent, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).