Thursday, 1 May 2014

Affordable homes and rents the big battleground issues for 2014 Camden elections

Housing will prove to be the big battleground in the 2014 polls to see who runs Camden council, as we can now see from the manifestos of the main parties locally.

Labour's manifesto launch on 30th April contains a new pledge to build 6000 council, social and private homes in the next 4 years - achieved by regeneration programmes on estates and private developments.

Affordable housing is by far the most pressing concern for local people - topping crime, childcare costs and the environment, according to Camden council's own research.

The manifesto also reaffirms Camden Labour policy not to auction to council homes to fund repairs and:
  • ƒoppose Tory-Liberal Democrat market rents and fixed-term tenancies for council housing
  • campaign for the Tory-Liberal Democrat Government to abolish their ‘bedroom tax’
  • improve repairs for council housing to get the best value for tenants and leaseholders
  • ƒbuild over 500 shared ownership homes to support people of all incomes to live in Camden
The launch of Labour's London-wide local election campaign has focused on reform of private rents, another key area of concern to local people.  Judging by the hyperbolic Tory response from SW1, he seems to have hit a nerve. 

Ed Miliband said: "the next Labour government will legislate to make three year tenancies the standard in the British private rented sector to giving people who rent the certainty they need. These new longer-term tenancies will limit the amount that rents can rise by each year." 
The Tory-Lib Dem administration 2006-2010
auctioned 70 council homes they had voided,
with many of them 'flipped' shortly
afterwards by property speculators 

The Camden Conservatives have taken a much different approach - and are pressing ahead with even more housing sales, picking up from where their previous administration with the Liberal Democrats left off. 

Specifically they propose to "sell freeholds of street properties that have over 50% leaseholders in them", a policy controversially advocated by right-wing think tank Policy Exchange which has argued that some areas are too 'expensive' for council or social housing and that sales could fund building elsewhere in the country. 

The Conservative manifesto is notable also because it advocates more right-to-buy of council stock with no mention of building replacement homes - in fact there is no mention of house building at all in their manifesto - repeating the mistakes of the 1980s.   

The Conservative policy of selling homes without local builds is social cleansing by stealth and follows previous high-profile comments on people being forced to move out of the borough because of welfare changes. 

  • On the news that up to 750 families could be forced to move from Camden because of welfare changes Andrew Mennear is quoted as saying that "London isn’t everything" - (Camden New Journal, Thursday 7 February, 2013).  
  • Councillor Claire-Louise Leyland, leader of Camden Conservatives, on the number of Camden tenants in arrears due to the Bedroom Tax going up by 11%, said in the Ham&High: “If they [tenants] knew they were going to fall into arrears, why didn’t they move?"  
The Camden Conservatives have also taken issue with the 150% levy on long-term empty homes, a policy put in place by Camden Labour to deter owners of properties leaving them vacant for long periods of time.

The dividing lines on May 22 could not be starker.

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