London’s housing situation is an emergency. Many of us spend over half our income to rent shoddy shoe-boxes. Yet London is falling further and further behind the amount of housing we need.
London needs genuinely affordable housing – a lot more. People are being driven out of town by sky-high rents. Aside from the break-up of communities which that entails, we will struggle to provide public services if police, nurses, teachers and other vital workers can’t afford to live here.
Yet London has little control over this. Councils are forced by UK policy to sell off homes at a discount. They get less than half the value of the homes, and can’t even use that to simply build new homes to replace them. Meanwhile, many of the old ones – over half in some boroughs – end up in the hands of private landlords, who charge councils market rents to put up people from council waiting lists.
And there is nothing that London can do about this. It is UK government policy and London cannot change it.
Scotland, with 5.4m people, has changed it. Wales, with 3.1m people, has changed it. London, with 8.9m people, isn’t allowed to.
We badly need the right to fix our own housing legislation. Without that, the mayor and the boroughs can do little to fix our housing crisis. Tinkering round the edges is not enough. We need devolution of legislative power, and a huge building programme of new council housing.