London has been in the grips of a housing crisis since the economic crash of 2006. Since then, the struggle to find suitable, safe and affordable accommodation has been the number one concern for Londoners.
Over 13 years on from the recession, are the residents of Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Croydon and Lewisham seeing improvements in housing, or has the crisis continued to affect those most at risk?
The way Londoners pay to live can give a good example of how housing accessibility is rigidly cemented within boroughs, with the poorest areas consistently fairing worse off.
There is a tremendous disparity in the number of people who own their own home across London. Residents of Tower Hamlets and Hackney are the least likely in all of London to own their own homes, yet are some of the most likely to be in socially or privately rented accommodation. Similarly, the two boroughs are the fourth and seventh least likely to have a mortgage.
Nigel Evan is a Lewisham based property developer and campaigner for more socially conscious mortgages and affordable housing as well as investment in sustainable living. He says that unless more support is given to people in Tower Hamlets and Hackney to get on the property ladder, the problem will only get worse.
“A house is probably the biggest investment we will make in our lifetimes, and not just in monetary terms – it’s a platform of stability on which to build better, safer and healthier lives. If we make housing accessible through socially conscious rentals, leases and mortgages, we will see a reduction in poverty that we simply would not be able to achieve otherwise.”
In fact, the number of homes owned outright in Tower Hamlets has fallen from 8.9 per cent in 2010, to 7.6 per cent in 2018. The same is true in Hackney, where rates of ownership have fallen 0.8 per cent during the same period.
However, the number of people owning their own properties in Lewisham and Croydon has increased.
In Croydon, 26.5 per cent of people now own their own home.
Stephan Hull, a former consultant for the Mortgage Advice Bureau says that this is in part due to the success of the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, but is sceptical about it’s long term sustainability.
“Croydon has seen a good level of private investment in property since 2010, partly due to Government initiatives for both developers and first time buyers. In part because of this, home ownership and the number of properties sold with a mortgage have increased, contrary to other parts of the country.”
Yet despite support for private investors being beneficial to Croydon’s housing crisis, in 2015 it was revealed that only 12 new council homes were built over an 18 month period.
Hull says this is due to “plans drawn up under the coalition Government to transfer the number of publicly owned housing assets to the private sector.”
Croydon Council is try to address the number of affordable homes available by developing a few small sites itself under it’s own company, Brick by Brick. It is hoped that 50 per cent of these new homes will be affordable.
Similarly, plans in Tower Hamlets to increase the number of affordable homes has seen 1,830 homes were in the borough in the last three years, with 29 per cent of all new housing being affordable – the highest rate of affordable homes built by any London council.
Possibly the most telling factor in whether the Housing Crisis is still as prevalent as it was during the recession is the number of people needing council supported housing, and the number of households waiting for a home.
There are a wealth of factors that lead to this kind of disparity, one of which is the simple demand for affordable housing massively outweighing the number of houses either available, or are planned to be built.
In Tower Hamlets alone there are more than 19,000 on the waiting list for housing, yet the council can only allocate around 1800 homes a year
Further compounding this is the effect Universal Credit has had on tenants ability to pay for housing. It was revealed that tens of thousands of claimants are being forced into financial crisis just weeks ahead of the second half of its introduction.
Figures show that claimants of Universal Credit owe on average £681 in rent arrears – more than twice the amount on the previous Housing Benefit system.
And given this, it is hard to claim that the housing crisis is seeing signs of improvement, when the most vulnerable, impoverished and exploited people in London are facing the risk of homelessness due to Governmental reform that doesn’t meet the simple need of providing housing, a means to pay for it, or the security of home ownership.