It has been clear for some time that there is a divergence between what Jeremy Corbyn said about housing and local estate regeneration at the national Labour Party Conference and what actually is happening in London councils controlled by Labour. Clearly national policy change is also required but councils do have some room for action and the ability to put pressure on the government through the LGA and other bodies.
At the weekend two detailed motions on housing were passed overwhelmingly at the London Labour Party Regional Conference which should cause some rethinking of Brent Council policy. Whether it will or not is of course a matter for the rank and file members of the Brent Labour Party and the attitude of theLabour Group on the council.
End the freeze to local housing allowances (LHA) which is making London increasingly unaffordable to people on low incomes. Shelter’s research shows that the LHA rates have already fallen behind actual rents in nearly 70% of England, meaning families are chasing an ever smaller number of properties at the bottom of the market covered by housing benefit, or are having to make up the difference by cutting back on essential spending elsewhere. The freeze will simply exacerbate this.
Shelter’s model suggests that after two years nearly all of the country will be unaffordable and the bottom third of the market will be affordable in just 20 local authorities.
Shelter defines an area as very unaffordable to benefit claimants when LHA rates fall below the 10th percentile. Their research shows that by 2019 60 local authorities will be very unaffordable, including most of London and large parts of the Home Counties, as well as towns like Reading.
Conference supports the following actions in the Private Rented Sector:
· Introduce controls on future rent increases, extending or a ‘system of rent caps’ to limit rent increases and ensure predictable rents.
· Increase security through longer term tenancies and strengthening tenants’ rights not to be automatically evicted.
· Improve standards through measures that include borough-wide licensing schemes, landlord accreditation and guaranteed minimum standards for private tenants.
· Councils could be encouraged to introduce voluntary Rent Stabilisation Schemes, such as Camden Council’s scheme, to control rents and make them more affordable.
· Improve industry practices through a ban on letting agents’ fees and consider the creation of council run letting agencies to promote best practice.
· London Labour Conference will work and campaign with our Branches, forums, Affiliates, MPs, Assembly members and Councillors to achieve these aims.
The London Labour Party Conference demands access to decent housing as a human right and believes that the housing needs and aspirations of Londoners should have priority over a market approach.
Conference welcomes the overwhelming support for Composite 5 at our Party’s National Conference. We also note the bold and unequivocal statements by our Party Leader on estate regeneration where he made two clear points:
· …people who live on an estate that is redeveloped must get a home on the same site and on the same terms as before
· …councils will have to win a ballot of existing tenants and leaseholders before any redevelopment scheme can take place
This conference supports full binding – ballot rights for estate residents in future regeneration projects in London and calls for current regeneration schemes to be stayed until councils have held ballots of all those affected.
Conference notes Shelter’s investigation, released on 28th September 2017, where it raised concerns that Housing developers are using viability assessments to build fewer social/council homes that they had initially promised.
Conference calls upon the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority and Labour controlled borough councils in London to maintain the existing stock of council and Housing Association housing and to work to increase it by:
· Retaining full ownership and control of available public land
· Increasing publicly led and controlled investment in new and existing Council and other commonly owned housing, including housing bonds alongside other direct investment.
· Directly delivering construction and maintenance services and to commit to a training scheme for direct labour to build and maintain council housing with guaranteed jobs within the council workforce upon successful completion.
· We need high quality council and Housing Association housing with secure lifetime tenancies and genuinely affordable rent (i.e. council target rents or Mayor of London living rent). All future developments should ensure levels of accessibility, adaptable and lifetime homes for disabled people that are all based on a clearly evidenced understanding of disabled people’s needs in each London Housing authority.
· Exploring and promoting, where appropriate, the use and development of 100% council-owned development vehicles to build and provide at council (target) rents.
· Supporting communities by requiring at least 1:1 advance replacement, within the same neighbourhood of council homes sold or demolished under regeneration schemes, with a minimum of 50% of any additional housing for council rents.
· Ceasing and prevent the transfer of land to either private developers or joint venture development vehicles which cede an ownership and /or control to property developers
· Ensure complete transparency of viability assessments – the Government’s planning guidance should make clear that viability assessments will be considered public documents.
· The Mayor of London, in his London Plan, London Boroughs, in their local planning polices, should include residents’ consultation, and any subsequent Ballot Process in new regeneration of Council/Housing Association stock. Residents should be given full financial information on all possible options at the “appraisal” stage, not just those assessed as “viable”.
· Promoting Co-operative housing managed by residents; development of new co-operative and mutually owned housing where supported by local communities.
· Campaigning for a Land Value Tax for vacant or underutilised land and seeking to end the “Right to Buy”.
We further call on the Mayor of London, the GLA and councils to ensure that brownfield land, including that owned by TfL, is made available to councils for council housing development and is not sold or transferred to private developers.
· Urges CLPs to campaign on estates around the capital explaining Labour Policy to support tenants’ rights when confronted with regeneration and calls on the London Labour Party to support such campaigns through any practical means.
· Calls for all Labour Councillors to support and campaign around our Party’s policy on estate regeneration.
· Demands the policies outlined above be prioritised in Labour’s Manifesto for London and Borough Manifestos for the 2018 Council Elections.