Housing

Part of Opposition Day — [13th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:37 pm on 15th December 2015.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Shadow Minister (Justice) 6:37 pm, 15th December 2015

Members who picked up the Metro this morning on the tube will have seen that Hammersmith features in this week’s property page. They will have found out that the average price of property there is just over £1 million, although they managed to find a one-bedroom basement flat for £425,000, which would be just within the starter home bracket, requiring an income of only just over £100,000 to snaffle that up. The more typical development—the new development with no social housing given permission by the previous Conservative council—sees a two-bedroom flat in Fulham going for £1.2 million or a three-bedroom flat in the Queen’s Wharf or Sovereign Court for £2.2 million.

That is why owner-occupation has dropped from over 40% to just over 30%. Local people cannot afford to buy those; they are bought by foreign investors from United Arab Emirates, Malaysia or wherever, and are either left empty or rented out, which is why the private sector has gone up from 30% to 40%, but all properties are unaffordable. I am afraid that I have to include in that list of unaffordable properties the 85% of council right to buys, which are now rented out at market rates, and mainly to local authorities that are now paying three or four times what it would cost to live in council accommodation. We know what the Housing Minister thinks about this because he recently said that

“if people want to live and work in and around London, it’s actually making a judgment call about what you can afford”— in other words, “on yer bike”.

One type of housing is affordable—30% of the accommodation in my constituency is still social housing. Most Governments in the past, irrespective of party, would have regarded that as an asset, but not this Government. What are they doing? They are selling off housing association homes so that they in turn can be turned into buy to let at market rates, and they are selling 50% of the remaining 12,000 council stock in order to subsidise that sale.

When voters voted to get rid of the Conservative council that was selling off empty council properties—it sold off 300 and was warehousing and emptying blocks of council flats and constructing zero social homes in new developments—they thought that they had got rid of all that. Now, however, we have a Government who are bringing it all back at the national level through the Housing and Planning Bill. There will be no social homes built in the future—nothing that is affordable to my constituents.

I am pleased that my hon. Friend Ms Buck is sitting next to me. Her speech hit the nail on the head when it comes to the most disgusting thing this Government are doing—removing security from people who live in council homes and telling them that they will have temporary housing as a form of charity rather than a permanent home in which to bring up their families.

The Government have reversed their position on “pay to stay” for housing associations, which is welcome, but they should do the same for everyone. They should let families on modest incomes continue to live in secure homes in London and around the country, and end this appalling business of removing security of tenure from council tenants.