Friday, 20 September 2013

Crumbs for Londoners - Darren Johnson on the Mayor's housing policy

The Mayor expects 80% of new housing to be in these 33 regeneration areas
 Darren Johnson, the Green Assembly Member,  has published a thoroughly researched report on the London Mayor's approach to the housing crisis and the construction of  luxury blocks, such as those at Willesden Green Library, which Boris Johnson  supports as part of the solution.  The full report is available HERE

The Willesden Green apartments are being advertised in Singapore with the selling point that they have no affordable housing or key workers on site. Yesterday it was revealed that flats in Stratford are being adverised in a similar way.

Darren Johnson writes:
It is much easier for the big developers behind these projects to get the finance from banks if they can sell lots of housing off-plan (before it is built). Investor landlords are quite happy to buy off-plan and have little difficulty in securing the cash or mortgage.By putting the money in up front they have, in the Mayor’s words,“helped bring forward housing development”. The Mayor estimates that one third of all buyers of new homes are from overseas, and that two thirds of all new homes are sold to investors
Whether it is a Londoner looking for a buy-to-let investment,a pension fund investing in new private rented housing,or an overseas investor exploiting the exchange rates, the Mayor is a champion of anything that gets housing built.
After looking at a series of case studies and examination of the evidence Johnson concludes:
National government policy has put local councillors, planning officers and residents in a difficult spot. They are constrained by a free market dogma that says we just need developers to build more homes, and that ignores the potential for other approaches.

The law of supply and demand works with things we consume. If the price of TVs is high, produce more TVs to meet demand and prices will fall. But private developers are very unlikely to meet the demand for housing. If the supply of TVs doesn’t increase and prices stay high then demand should fall off.

But when house prices rise people see an opportunity to make money so demand can keep rising, especially if investors from around the world join the feast.

The Government is encouraging buy-to-let mortgages with tax breaks; helping people take out unaffordable mortgages with Help to Buy; encouraging overseas investors to buy new homes off plan.

The Mayor supports these policies because he says they increase supply, but of course they are also increasing demand.In fact, they are probably more successful at increasing demand than they are at increasing supply, so they are actually making the problem worse.

Councils and residents can’t do very much about this.

But the Mayor of London is in a unique position to advocate bold changes to housing policy. He has recently argued that stamp duty revenue in London should be devolved to City Hall, giving him a large budget for affordable housing.

He could go further and call for a housing policy that:

1. constrains demand by putting controls or extra taxes on overseas investors and second home owners, or by putting a tax on all land values to dampen speculation and stop developers sitting on large, unused land banks
2. gives councils, housing associations and co-operatives the money and powers to build affordable homes that stay affordable forever whatever the market is doing, instead of expecting the private market to build them
3. puts ordinary people in a better position to weather the crisis while it is tackled, for example with continental-style stabilising rent controls and protections for private tenants, ideas backed by the majority of the Assembly in its own reviews of housing and its majority support for the Let Down campaign

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1 comment:

Trevor said...

again I think this is standard Procedure,
the poor have to make do suffering (not living) in havens of torment more commonly known as social housing in which it is impossible to enjoy peace and quiet because the sound insulation is often as standard insufficient to block out household noises etc.
so for example you could be sitting inside your living room watching TV and you are regularly disturbed and irritated by the sound of chairs being dragged across uncarpeted floors
which for many people is unbearable( me included) and then when you attempt to draw it to the attention of your neighbor
it isn't always appreciated and @ times you even get a hostile unreasonable response.
which means the frustration continues to build up which in some sad cases ends in violence
which of course just serves to make things worse.
now all of this could be prevented if only local authorities would build social housing that takes into serious consideration the problems caused by housing that is built with insufficient sound insulation material.
and then those flats are then inhabited by people that don't consider the feelings of their neighbors which then causes many a problem.
but also problems grow simply cause the estates they live in are poorly sound insulated and so when people move around as normal it can be heard by their neighbors and there is only so much some people can tolerate before they feel like they are going to go crazy due to having to put up with noise from their neighbors.
the metropolitan estate on chalk hill road is a classic example of what happens when social housing is built with evidently minimal sound insulation material.
and this estate was meant to be a so called regeneration
but in reality it is nothing but a Chalk hill estate part two on a smaller scale with the same old flaws that made the old Chalk Hill estate a total failure and one big haven of torment.
that proves that even when we are told that changes are being made, the proof is in the pudding.
and sadly that is when illusions are often shattered.