Housing Need (London)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:01 am on 29th June 2010.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North 11:01 am, 29th June 2010

Many of them are ex-local authority, although not all. I am constantly astonished when I speak to people in my constituency who are living in ex-council flats that are privately rented and are paying twice, or three or four times, the rent of their next-door neighbours who are still council tenants. What is going on in London is absurd and obscene. I hope that the Minister will at least recognise that the housing benefit proposals are punishing the poor, tenants and those in housing need for a problem that they never created. I am not sure what the proposals will achieve. Unless they are linked to a huge building programme of places for affordable rent, all we will be doing is making a bad situation much worse and punishing a whole generation of young people and children across London. I want to hear about the building programme, so I hope that the Minster will be able to address that point.

I shall make my two further points quickly because many colleagues wish to speak. Has the Minister any plans to improve the situation of leaseholders who have bought places, usually under shared ownership schemes, from housing associations? There seem to be enormous problems about representation in housing associations, and many of them seem to have a generally unresponsive attitude to high leasehold and service charges.

My final point relates to planning issues. Most local authorities in London have now adopted a proposal that a proportion of all new build schemes should be for social housing. The former Mayor of London, Mayor Livingstone, wanted a proportion of 50% for those in housing need, although I would rather it was 50% for social housing. Is the Minister prepared to underline what the previous Government tried to do by providing sufficient resources so that new build can take place or providing borrowing allowances for local authorities?

My local authority has a new cabinet member for housing: James Murray, who is part of the new Labour team-not new Labour with a capital "N"; I do not ever want someone to misquote me on that. I shall end by quoting from his message to me:

"In Islington we have thousands of families on the waiting list for housing, many living in desperate overcrowding. It is not rare to see 7 or 8 people in a 2-bed flat-with the children often unable to do their homework, unable to have any privacy, and with the whole family suffering under the stress...The announcement last week of a cap on housing benefit could put a third of Islington's private sector tenants who are on housing benefit at risk of eviction. This will only increase the pressure on social housing-and so more than ever we desperately need more investment in social rented homes. You will hear the same message from many Labour politicians in inner London-and that is because this investment is the only answer."