Gipsy Hill Councillor Luke Murphy blogs on Lambeth Labour’s successful record in tackling the housing crisis, despite the Tory government’s failed policies.
London is one of the greatest cities in the world to live and there are few better places to live in the capital than in my home borough of Lambeth. Stretching from the banks of the Thames in the north to Gipsy Hill in the south, the ward where I live and represent as a councillor, Lambeth is one of the most diverse and open places on the planet. People from all over the world come to build a life for themselves and their families.
Two generations of my family built their lives in Lambeth, with my nan bringing up my mum and uncle on the Tulse Hill estate before later moving to the Berridge Road Estate which is just a short walk from where I live now. My family was lucky to have benefited from the stability that council housing can provide.
Increasingly though, living in Lambeth and London has become more expensive and difficult for those on low and middle incomes. The success of our capital has meant that more and more people want to live here, and that’s a good thing, but it’s been clear for some time that our housing market isn’t delivering the homes that our communities need.
A responsible government would have taken decisive action to build the thousands of additional decent and affordable homes that communities like those in West Norwood and Gipsy Hill need. However, since 2010, the Conservatives have taken exactly the wrong approach. Their first act on taking power was to cut the affordable homes budget by 60 per cent. Not content with cutting the budget to build new affordable homes, they slashed the Decent Homes budget which was aimed at improving the quality of existing ones. Moreover, the Tories have allowed developers to get out of their obligations to build affordable homes as part of their developments, weakened powers for councils to improve private renting and undermined the safety net by cutting benefits and introducing the chaotic Universal Credit which is already making many people’s lives a misery.
It’s no wonder that on this government’s watch, we’ve seen home ownership go into freefall, the affordability crisis worsen, increasing overcrowding, and rising levels of homelessness and rough sleeping. The Tories' record on housing is one of failure.
Despite this, Lambeth Labour has been fighting against the Tories' failure to provide decent and affordable homes for all. We are building 1,000 homes at council rent for local families, delivering the first new council homes in a generation. Unlike the government, we’ve also got tough with private developers, introducing new rules to stop them dodging their obligations to build affordable homes.
But we want to do even more, that’s why we’ve set up Homes for Lambeth, a 100 per cent council-owned not-for-profit company. We will use council land, infill on estates and rebuilding others that are of poor quality and which the council cannot afford to refurbish, to build a new generation of the highest quality social housing for local families and homes for private renters with long-term tenancies.
These decisions have not been easy but we’re committed to rebuilding those estates with no loss of social housing, building additional homes at council rent, providing a new home for every existing council tenant (you can find our key guarantees to residents here) and doing all of this without private developers. We’ve worked hard with tenants and leaseholders to make rebuilding our estates fair to our existing residents, and offering the hope of a new home to Lambeth’s homeless families and those in housing need.
We’ve also spent one of the largest sums in the country on improving the standard of our existing council housing stock in Lambeth over the past six years. Many council estates have been fully refurbished, with tenants receiving new kitchens, bathrooms, windows and doors -- making sure homes are warm, dry and safe.
We also have a strong track record in improving private renting, clamping down on rogue landlords and those who put tenants at risk with dangerous overcrowding or substandard accommodation. But with the sector growing rapidly across Lambeth and London, we know we need to do more, so we will be using the full range of our powers to improve life for our private renters.
We can’t solve Lambeth’s housing crisis alone; we need a Labour government for that. And if Labour got into government it is committed to building 100,000 new council homes a year, introducing longer tenancies in the private rented sector and capping rent rises and to provide a well-funded safety net for all, driving down homelessness and rough sleeping. But I know that Lambeth Labour has a record on housing to be proud of and if we’re re-elected in May I know all Labour councillors will be working even harder to ensure that everyone in our borough has a decent and affordable place to call home.
Cllr Luke Murphy, Labour Councillor for Gipsy Hill ward