Government plans to force councils to sell off their most expensive properties to build more affordable homes will do little to reduce the strain on Hackney’s council and social housing supply, according to the borough’s cabinet member for housing.
Councillor Philip Glanville is sceptical that the government’s controversial Housing Bill would do much for Hackney, even after the inclusion of a proposal from Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith MP to force councils to build two new homes for every one sold.
An amendment tabled by Goldsmith was incorporated into the legislation and approved by MPs last week. He and Prime Minister David Cameron wrote a joint article in the Evening Standard pledging to combat the shortage of affordable housing in the capital with a drive to build more homes, so “we will ensure that for every council house sold, at least two affordable homes are built”.
The Housing and Planning Bill would force councils to sell their highest value properties to help fund the development of the government’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme. It would also oblige councils to drop annual rents by one per cent and introduce a ‘pay to stay’ system that would increase charges for tenants on higher incomes.
Glanville told Eastlondonlines: “The problem with ‘two for one’ is that it’s not clear they’re going to be in the same neighbourhood as the ones that were sold. If you’re taking something truly affordable in an inner London borough, which costs between £100-£150 a week, and it’s not replaced with something in that community at that kind of rent, then the community’s lost something and Hackney’s lost something.”
The issue is particularly serious for Hackney’s large number of families in temporary accommodation. Many are housed in hostels, a temporary fix that Glanville called “a really expensive form of low-quality housing, both for the family, the government and for the taxpayer”.
Glanville said the uncertainty over where replacement housing would be built would pose a real threat to people on Hackney’s waiting list for council housing, as the borough would not be able to house them elsewhere in London.
“If the new homes are built in Bromley or Hillingdon, for example, that means no person from Hackney that would’ve had access to that home before it was sold has access to it now. You’ve lost the asset, it’s lost permanently to Hackney and the community it was built to serve.”
He also voiced concerns over the proposed ‘pay to stay’ rent increases for council tenants. Households with incomes of more than £40,000 a year would be penalised, he added. “Council cleaners who work in our housing department earn just under £22,500 a year. If two of them lived together they would earn more than £40,000. If they live in a two-bedroom property they’re paying maybe £450 a month. Their rent could rise to £1,700 a month, overnight.”
Figures from the online estate agency Zoopla suggest that the current average private rental in Hackney costs over £480 a week. This is more than two thirds of the borough’s average salary of £608 a week.
ELL contacted Zac Goldsmith’s campaign office for a comment on his proposals for London’s housing but received no response.