HOUSING CHIEFS SEND REAL LONDONERS’ STORIES TO HOUSING MINISTER OVER HOUSING ACT FEARS
London’s Labour Housing Chiefs have sent stories from real Londoners about the impact the Housing and Planning Act will have on their lives and have repeated calls for the implementation of the Housing and Planning Act to be halted by the new Housing Minister, Gavin Barwell MP (Croydon Central).
Mr Barwell has failed to reply to an early joint letter sent in August from Labour’s local council cabinet members for housing across London.
The Housing and Planning Act will force many councils to sell up to a third of their already desperately over-subscribed housing stock. The Act also introduces the Tenant Tax on hard-pressed working families, which will see households in council homes with incomes over £40,000 per year forced to pay a 15% additional tax to the government for every £1 they earn over the threshold, up to the level of market rent for their home. The Act also includes the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants and a new definition of what an ‘affordable home’ will cost in London, which will further worsen the housing crisis.
It is still unclear when secondary legislation will be published to announce the specific details of how these policies will work in practice, meaning residents and councils remain in the dark about the future.
Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Housing and Development, organised the letter and commented: “The Housing Act will be devastating for London and it’s important that the Housing Minister is aware of how it will affect real Londoners.
“Some of the stories we have been sent from concerned residents are desperately worrying and the Minister owes them an answer, even if he won’t reply to our letters.
“It seems clear to me that Mr Barwell cannot say on the one hand he is acting in the best interest of London, as he has to do in his job as Minister for our city, and then in his other role implement legislation that will make finding an affordable home much harder for working people in London.
“The government hasn’t published much of the detail of how it plans to implement the Act, so now is the time to halt its implementation. We stand ready to work with Mr Barwell and the Mayor of London to tackle the housing crisis, so that London can remain a home for all Londoners.”
Sinead, who has lived with her husband in their council flat in Islington for 15 years. They have a 19 year old daughter who suffers from mental health difficulties, and 2 sons aged 8 and 12. She started her career as an office administration apprentice aged 16, and she and her labourer husband now earn a household income that will mean they will be forced to pay a Tenant Tax of £193.75 per month. Sinead told us, “We’ve both worked hard to create a stable home for our children. If we’re forced to pay this new tax we might end up having to leave London. The other alternative is that I give up my job and try find a part time position instead.”
John works as a railway engineer. His wife is an administrator. They have lived in their council flat since 1990. Based on their combined income, they will be liable for a Tenant Tax bill of £200 per month. John comments that “the Government are making it impossible for me to earn a living. My wife and I can’t afford this new tax but we also can’t afford to rent in the private sector in London.”
The letter was co-signed by the following Labour Housing Leads from across London – Cllr Diarmaid Ward (London Borough of Islington), Cllr Martin Whelton (London Borough of Merton), Cllr Alison Butler (London Borough of Croydon), Cllr Patricia Callaghan (London Borough of Camden), Cllr Farah Hussain (London Borough of Redbridge), Cllr Harbi Farah (London Borough of Brent), Cllr Katherine Dunne (London Borough of Hounslow), Cllr Stephanie Cryan (London Borough of Southwark), Cllr Khevyn Limbajee (London Borough of Waltham Forest), Cllr Sirajul Islam (London Borough of Tower Hamlets), Cllr Dominic Twomey (London Borough of Barking & Dagenham), Cllr Matthew Bennett (London Borough of Lambeth), Cllr Averil Lekau (London Borough of Greenwich), Cllr Philip Glanville (London Borough of Hackney), Cllr Damian Egan (London Borough of Lewisham), Cllr Alan Strickland (London Borough of Haringey).
Pictured – Cllr Diarmaid Ward