The Housing Bill- What’s next for housing in London?
11 March 2016 Architectural Association, London   The housing crisis is a term so frequently used in recent times when discussing architecture, politics, and society. From an issue once expected to drift away and solve itself, it continued with a vengeance and now lies as an ever-present problem facing almost all in London. From incessantly rising rents, to gentrification, to a lack of housing for even local residents, the issue is alive and present and growing evermore wildly.   Closer to home, this topic has raised various discussions across the Architectural Association, from the recent Housing London lecture series to the launch of Concrete Action, a platform to provide support for architecture and planning professionals and communities fighting for housing in London, which all raised awareness of the issues and encouraged an aware mind to try and address the crisis and its wider effects.   A new policy may be hitting the housing crisis very soon. It is called the Housing Bill, a policy put forward by the current Conservative Government. I was unaware of this movement until I attended the Camden Council meeting on 11 February 2016 which gathered council representatives and key bodies from associations such as Shelter, the London School of Economics, and Generation Rent, who are all involved and affected by the housing issue across London. Taking place in Camden Town Hall, the venue was bursting to the balconies with local residents and visitors, most of whom have been directly affected by the housing crisis and will further be if the Housing Bill is approved. Reassuringly, the meeting heard not only the opinions of frustrated residents, but also the stark opposition by council members and powerful supporters against the Bill. [caption id="attachment_5542" align="alignnone" width="360"]12819326_1007354789300765_4536603575016224563_o The Camden conference against the Housing Bill, Camden Town Hall, 11 February 2016. Photo: Tané Kinch[/caption] What does the Housing Bill propose? The key policies include the forcible sale of ‘high-value’ council homes once vacant, causing a reduction in social housing provisions, a vital necessity for so many in London (a third of Camden’s residents are in social housing). This policy proposes to overpower and thus diminish local council authorities whose aim it is to maintain the necessary provision of social housing in their borough.
[caption id="attachment_5551" align="alignnone" width="360"] Kill the Housing Bill leaflet promoting the upcoming protest on Sunday March 13[/caption] Ironically, many of these council housing blocks and ‘affordable’ homes will make way for ‘starter homes’ which offer a discount for first-time buyers (which will rise according to tax and market value increases after 5 years); discounts of which will be funded by the attainment of cheaper council properties. The discount will come at a price. Another policy restricts social housing tenancies to 2-5 years, an unimaginable removal of security for those who often wait on long housing lists for a similar length of time. It will cause a constant movement of residents, forcing many out of a home beyond this time limit. Once vacant, the property could be classed as ‘unoccupied’ and thus open to being sold off, leaving the council with a gradual reduction of social housing. As a result of the proposed new ‘pay-to-stay’ scheme, tenants with a household income of over £40,000 a year will be forced to pay rents closer to market rates, an unattainable charge for many of those even on higher incomes, pushing social renters into the private market.   Who will the Housing Bill affect? Namely, a huge hit will be taken by the social renting sector, edging some of the most vulnerable into further insecurity. It is not limited to this demographic however. With drastic rises in rents, housing is becoming an unattainable goal for most, with an estimated annual income of £75,000 required to attain a starter home, as well as a £100,000 deposit (with no deposit, you’d be required to have an income of over £100,000). These shocking numbers will come as a direct result of the Housing Bill, making housing in London critically even more difficult to attain.
[caption id="attachment_5552" align="alignnone" width="360"] Kill the Housing Bill leaflet promoting the upcoming protest on Sunday March 13[/caption] Whether for or against the Housing Bill, it remains important to know what the Government is putting forward and how it will affect current and future residents of London. [caption id="attachment_5545" align="alignnone" width="360"]Kill the Housing Bill march in January 2016. Photo: The Socialist Worker Kill the Housing Bill march in January 2016. Photo: The Socialist Worker[/caption] For those against, please join the protest ‘Kill the Housing Bill’, taking place on Sunday 13th March 2016 from 12 noon at Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3TL, which aims to speak up for the opposition of the Bill (details below).   For more information: Kill the Housing Bill Site Support via the march- Kill the Housing Bill march leaflet Support via Facebook- Kill the Housing Bill- Secure Homes For All Camden meeting against the Housing Bill (11 Feb 2016) Housing London Lecture Series- Part 1 Concrete Action Site