For 8 years the Tory Council in Hammersmith & Fulham pursued policies that actively contributed to the housing crisis in the Borough.
Rather than build truly affordable homes for residents the Tories increased the rate at which the Council sold off individual properties as they became vacant. For years I was contacted by constituents in dire need of housing, who watched in horror as vacant, affordable homes on their street were left empty by the Council before being sold off privately.
On the 22nd of May, after 8 years, the Tories were unceremoniously voted out of office by an electorate fed up of not being listened to.
On the first day after taking office, Cllr Lisa Homan, the new Cabinet Member for Housing, telephoned the Director for Housing and told him to halt all Council house sales pending a review of this hated policy.
This represented a new direction for the Council, and the first of many changes to the Council's housing policies.
Since coming to power the new Labour Council has promised to:
- Strengthen the planning criteria for developers to build social rented homes and low-cost homes to buy
- Use planning and legal powers to ensure that new homes go to residents
- Use planning powers to ensure that new developments provide more affordable housing
- Encourage the building of larger homes to help with overcrowding
- Work with charities and faith communities to tackle homelessness in the borough
- Drive up standards in the private rented sector and introduce a Landlord’s Charter
- Negotiate with private sector leaseholders to limit residents being forced out of the borough
- Support those unfairly targeted by housing benefit and local housing allowance cuts
This housing crisis affects all Londoners, from families on low incomes who can't find secure, truly affordable accommodation, to young professionals on good incomes, who see no possibility of ever being able to buy in their local area. While the new Labour Council will do its utmost to fight on behalf of local residents looking to find decent housing in the Borough, its efforts will be hampered by the appalling policies that have been introduced by the Tories nationally since 2010.
At the bottom end of the market the Tories have hit the most vulnerable with the bedroom tax and local housing allowance cuts. Meanwhile, the Tories have done nothing to deal with the over-inflated London housing market for fear of upsetting their property investor friends who are making a killing from trading in properties that are beyond the reach of all but the global super-rich.
The victory for Labour in Hammersmith & Fulham was a great step forward. However, there is still much more to do, and as the MP for Hammersmith I will continue to pursue this issue on behalf of all my constituents and hold this Government to account for its shameful record on housing.