As a politician representing an inner-London constituency, I find it easy to become obsessed with the facts and figures about housing in they city. The high rents, the ever-increasing house prices, the housing waiting list and the the number of families forced to rent-privately because there is simply nowhere affordable for them to live.
However, every Monday in my surgery I am pulled out of the Westminster bubble and reminded of the human cost of a housing market that has reached crisis point. While constituents ask for my help with all manner of things, the vast majority of constituents who ask for assistance want help with a housing case.
I've met with families with children who live in cramped 1-bedroom flats with mould on the wall and vermin in the kitchen, yet the Council claims they're 'adequately housed'. I've been contacted by families with young babies who were placed by the Council in foul hostels alongside drug users and the mentally ill.
Local residents often turn to Hammersmith & Fulham Council for help when faced with a housing problem, but instead of pursuing policies that help local residents in housing need, the Tory Council is pursuing policies that actively contribute to the housing crisis in the Borough.
Rather than building truly affordable homes for residents the Council is increasing the rate at which they sell off individual properties as they become vacant - over 250 so far - with another 250 sales planned if they're re-elected.
Another policy being pursued by the Council is the redevelopment of council homes to replace them with luxury flats.
The first blocks to be developed in this way are Watermeadow Court Estate and Edith Summerskill House in Fulham. 150 council homes will be replaced with luxury housing unaffordable to those on a normal wage.
Not only have the Council lost the rents from the flats that are kept empty or sold but 500 families who would have had decent, truly affordable homes will now be forced into the private rented sector, where despite poor standards and overcrowding, rents are up to five times council rents – meaning the taxpayer must subsidise the private landlord through housing benefit. It is a heavy emotional and financial cost to bear to subsidise the council’s wicked social engineering scheme.
The Council has argued that these developments will include 'affordable' housing. What they mean by affordable are 1-bedroom flats that require potential buyers to earn more than £60,000 per year, more than double the wage of an average Londoner.
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.
As the MP for Hammersmith I will continue to pursue this issue on behalf of all my constituents and hold this Council to account for its shameful record on housing and social cleansing of the borough.