Tamsin Omond, Green Party candidate for East Ham, highlights the current housing crisis in Newham, and how a Green win would help things change for the better.
There is no easy solution to the housing crisis in London. The banks and the politicians told us that a house is an asset rather than a safe place where can go as we are and not be questioned – and we took their word for it. Housing crisis followed housing crisis and we are all now held hostage to the market, struggling to get a place on the ladder, fixated by an idea that owning a house is a symbol of success in the competition of life which is less and less a game.
There are 1.3million people on the housing list in the UK.
24,000 of these people live in Newham.
And yet Sir Robin Wales (the Labour mayor who leads the current one-party state of Newham Borough Council) has the cheek to tell mums fighting for their right to live and stay in the city they grew up: ‘If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham.’ Robin’s words reminded me of something a rightwing US millionaire, Glenn Beck, said: “What we don’t have a right to is housing, healthcare and handouts – we don’t have a right to those things”.
One of the main causes of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing. The reason we don’t have affordable housing is the council selling off its stock to private landlords (who are given tax breaks to profit from the housing crisis) and to large scale property developers. Although Newham – in its own ‘local plan’ – promises to “seek a tenure mix of 65% market housing and 35% affordable housing” (p.130), in practise they are more likely to rubber stamp developments that offer no truly affordable housing.
Newham Council’s relationship with Galliard Homes is just one example of our Labour council prioritising the profit of luxury property developers over and above the people of Newham’s need for homes. Already Galliard have benefited from the public-funded connectivity of the Olympic Borough. At Stratford and at Canning Town they have built luxury homes that they proudly publicise has no social housing.
Now Newham Council are on the cusp of giving Galliard another profit boost. The legacy of the Boleyn development (the redevelopment of West Ham stadium) hangs in the balance. Galliard are proposing 94% private apartments, the community are demanding 100% social housing and Newham Council are yet to make a decision. If we don’t join with the Boleyn Development 100 campaign to collect objection letters and fight back then it seems Galliard will be granted yet another jewel our Olympic legacy by this Labour council.
So what would a Green elected voice in Newham do differently?
Our housing policies would begin to rebalance the system – prioritising people’s need for a home over the market’s need to monetise everything that we value and turn these things of value into potential profit of the 1%. But more urgently we would continue as elected members or as community activists to hold Labour to account, to voice opposition to their manipulation of the housing market as a tool for social cleansing, and to fight alongside community campaigns to gain ground against the relentless drive of a flawed argument that tries to convince us that there is no place like home.
Nationally we have pledged the following:
- We will build 500,000 new socially rented homes by 2020.
- We will pay for this by reforming landlord tax allowances to incentivise good practice rather than profit, starting with scrapping the mortgage interest tax allowance.
- Building new homes is not the only answer. We will also bring empty homes back into use, end the right to buy, provide better support for tenants in privately rented accommodation and take action on soaring rents.