Green solution to the housing crisis in Newham

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. 

Focus E15 mums

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.

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Boleyn Development 100 campaign

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?

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Tamsin and Rachel campaigning against the Boleyn development plans

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.

What has the Green Party got to offer young people?

Rachel Collinson, Green Party candidate for West Ham, explains what we have to offer young people.

This evening I was the only Party representative at an event about engaging young people in politics. To a lot of those aged 18-24 (or even under 40) this would be no surprise.

So many parties claim to be interested in young people, but actions speak louder than words. Only the Green Party actually demonstrate they care.

In a recent poll, young people said their main concerns are:

  • Lowering the voting age to 16
  • Youth centres reopening
  • Free education
  • A living wage for everybody

All those are Green Party manifesto commitments.

Jobs!

They are probably trying not to think about it, but a huge proportion of those under 24 will probably be unemployed when they leave education. The Green Party have found ways to create over a million new jobs, so there would actually be hope for them.

We’d put financial education and politics back on the curriculum for schools so that every child will have a chance to learn things that will actually affect them for the rest of their lives, as opposed to doing quadratic equations. (Sorry maths fans, but I have never needed to do a quadratic equation since I left school.)

Danger in the air

Importantly, it’s young people that will be most affected by the millions of tons of polluting gases that we pump into the air – gases that are changing the weather and the composition of the air we breathe.

So many people who vote reliably and regularly – those over sixty – are in denial that they will affected by this. But our young people recognise the danger. So, for them, the Green Party will do everything we can to limit and reverse the damage.

Warning: cynicism alert

Finally, I think I understand why politicians have a tendency to ignore young people, and give their attention to big business and older people instead.

I’m going to be blunt: young people have no money.

When you look at the state of party politics, you begin to realise that financial interests drive the parties. UKIP, Labour, the LibDems and the Tories all have billionaire donors, support from multinational corporations or giant unions and the media. And when you look at the targets of their manifestos, you can see that they reflect the concerns of their donors, rather than those who have less money. That means women, the young, ethnic minorities and the working class.

The Green Party just don’t have that kind of money or powerful support. But when people actually read our policies, they decide to vote for us.

So we need a big change to the way the system works – an end to private donations to political parties, and public funding for politics instead. That would level the playing field and be fairer for everybody.

Interestingly, it is also a Green Party policy.

What to do about this?

There are two simple things you can do:

  1. Register to vote.
  2. Join the campaign for a fairer political system.

There are also some great quizes to help you work out which political party is closest to your views, such as Vote Match and Vote For Policies. Give it a go!

You can also find out more about Generation Vote Green, our General Election campaign to get young people engaged, empowered – and voting.

Y Vote from UK Young Ambassadors on Vimeo.