Ealing’s Housing: Municipal Dreamers and Socialists

Today I presented Ealing Labour’s ambitions to return local government to our long tradition of municipalism. Our proposals to once again have our council delivering at pace and scale a new generation of genuinely affordable housing is matched by our commitments to shaping the private sector and tackling poor standards in renting.

I was particularly pleased to be followed by Southall’s three new, and young, Cllrs Jaskiran Chohan, Karanvir Dhadwal and Kamaldeep Sahota. Each spoke about their own committment to delivering genuinely affordable housing, and for Southall. My speech is below, followed by the motion.

 

London is facing a new evolution in its crisis in its supply of housing. As a consequence of uneven growth across London as a world city, but also the agglomeration of well paid work right the way back since the industrial revolution.

That crisis has been punctuated at various different stages with different forms. Overpopulated slums, poverty, the destruction of war. So it is no great surprise that in that strife, the social conditions of those slums in London and places like Manchester and Glasgow, provided the crucible for change and radicalism.

The places that created the people like George Lansbury, Clement Attlee, Emmeline Pankhurst, Kier Hardy; also made the municipal dreamers, the radicals, the reformers, Ebenezer Howard, Patrick Abercrombie, Lewis Silkin.

Who each addressed the crisis they faced, at that point with different solutions. Whether it was the garden estates like Hanger Hill, the cottage estates like the Cuckoo in Hanwell, or the great estates like Acton, or the new towns outside of London.

They worked to achieve, in the best spirit of democratic socialism the notion that everyone deserves the right to a good home; secure and well paid employment; a healthy environment in which to bring up their children.

Today we don’t face war, and we don’t face depression, instead we face the consequences of the great recession. Caused by housing market failures, exacerbated by housing market failures.  Where affordability is the new crisis. Where families feel more and more that the dream of Howard, Abercrombie and Silkin is less and less achievable. This has evolved into the new radicalism that is once again permeating our political culture, fuelling the conditions that led us to Brexit.

At the western end of the Uxbridge Road your average income is £20,000.  At the eastern end it is more than double that figure. The average three bedroom property will cost you £800,000, requiring an average household income of £190,000.

Even by the admission of free marketeers, when a market is not in equilibrium it is broken. After decades of the supply of genuinely affordable housing not meeting demand, today’s crisis forces even more families out into the private rented sector. Increasingly out of control and at the mercy of latter day baron landlords and their agents.  

We have 2,100 families in temporary accommodation. 65% of all new homelessness cases presenting to the Council caused by tenancies ending. Where the vast majority of housing benefit and universal credit benefit recipients being in employment. We are passporting billions of pounds of public money to pay off the buy-to-let mortgages of willing but armature landlords who use property as a pension product.

When markets fail, society feels the consciences. When national governments deregulate the planning system, enforce right to buy, choke off new housing subsidies, cap our ability to borrow and incentivise low pay, Local Government is left to pick up the pieces.

When markets fail, Local Government steps in, and so we will in Ealing. 2,500 new genuinely affordable homes. By using our own land, our own money, our own borrowing, our own people; we are delivering the largest programme of council house building in London. By better shaping and guiding private developers, we expect them to do more to provide the homes that people can truly afford, and publishing their sums when they don’t meet the grade.

Giving residents the confidence that their neighbourhoods can change sustainably through greater transparency of the planning process, ballots for estate regeneration programmes, and clearer guidance to protect and enhance the character and heritage of our neighbourhoods. Encouraging good institutional landlords to increase standards in the private rented sector and lobbying for the powers we need to take action against the bad.

If we are going to make an impact on Ealing and London’s modern housing affordability crisis, we need to have as much courage, as much fortitude and as much ambition as those early municipal socialists and dreamers. Labour’s approach recommits our administration to that mission. In that tradition, I move the motion.

 

Councillor Mason to move:

The Council notes Ealing Labour’s 2018 manifesto pledges to:

  • Deliver at least 2,500 genuinely affordable by 2022.
  • Invest £250 million in our current council housing stock.
  • Reduce homelessness and invest to prevent families having to enter temporary accommodation.
  • Renew our Local Plan to better guide private development in the borough.
  • Drive up standards in the Private Rented Sector.

The Council Further notes:

  • Ealing Labour’s plan to deliver 2,500 genuinely affordable homes by 2022 is the biggest in London.
  • Our plans have won the support of the Mayor of London, who has contributed £99 million in new subsidy for our next generation of council homes.
  • Nearly 8,000 households are on Ealing’s waiting list for social housing.
  • Around 1,500 homelessness applications are made to Ealing Council each year, of which half are accepted. Half of those accepted (roughly 325 per year are female single parents).
  • London’s housing crisis has pushed around 2,300 households into temporary accommodation, with most homelessness applications caused by people being evicted from unsecure tenancies in the private sector.
  • Ealing’s award-winning estate regeneration programme has delivered a net increase of over 600 new social rent homes since 2001.

Under Labour’s proposals the Council will:

  • Use the council’s own land to deliver much needed new housing, increasing our direct delivery pipeline of new homes of all types and tenures to 3,100.
  • Use our own borrowing capacity, including the HRA to self-finance as much of our developments as possible.
  • Expand our wholly owned council company Broadway Living into being a direct builder, returning us to the principles of the time when Councils were Britain’s biggest house builders.
  • Embrace council estate ballots, which will sit at the heart of our plans for regeneration, ensuring residents continue to be integral to our plans to deliver more, better quality homes.
  • Give clearer guidance to private developers, setting out clearly our expectations for genuinely affordable homes as a starting point in their schemes, with a preference for 60% social and London affordable rents, 30% London Living Rent and 10% discount market rent and shared ownership.
  • Undertake a Borough wide land audit to identify where we can sustainably build new homes, as well as catch land bankers sitting on properties that should be being used for housing.
  • Give clearer guidance to how we can grow our seven towns and their neighbourhoods, protecting their heritage and enhancing their character.
  • Secure greater transparency to the development process through publishing viability assessments that don’t meet the target of delivering 50% affordable homes overall.
  • Give the public confidence in our negotiations with private developers by improving transparency in the planning process and publishing a register of meetings between developers and Councillors
  • Help key public-sector workers stay in the borough, by giving first dibs on discount marketed rent and shared ownership properties to Ealing residents and key workers.
  • Increase the supply of temporary accommodation by increasing the number of modular homes in the Borough, reducing the need for bed and breakfast accommodation.
  • Lobby government to extend the Council’s landlord licensing powers, tackling rogue landlords and dodgy letting agencies in order to drive up standards for renters