Croydon needs housing for the many, not the few

By - Monday 30th April, 2018

How Croydon’s Labour council is working to end homelessness and bring new, affordable homes to the borough

Photo public domain.

In January 2017, I found myself homeless. I was twenty-five, working what amounted to part-time hours and had nowhere to stay. This is the position that – shockingly – a fifth of young people in the UK find themselves in. Along with these people, I was one of London’s almost 250,000 young people who are invisibly homeless. I was lucky. I slept on friends’ sofas and then moved into a house being sold by a friend until I was in full-time work and able to pay rent. I was so fortunate that my community stepped in, kept me safe and supported me to get back on my feet. I could never have got to where I am today without this help, but not everybody is so lucky.

Stories like mine are repeated in communities across our country. We are in the midst of a criminal housing crisis that has been enabled time and again by Conservative government policies that block us from being able to fix it. Emblematic of this is the state of council housing nationally, which has fallen to record lows. The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) cap, which limits the amount that councils are allowed to borrow for house building, makes it practically impossible for council houses to be built. The result? Less affordable and accessible housing for the local community, higher private rents and landlords turning away those who receive benefits – the very people that need housing the most.

Locally, the Croydon Conservatives are no more ready to face the challenge than their government. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, considering former housing minister and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell’s astounding suggestion that grandparents should leave homes to grandchildren to solve the crisis. In fact, they are so out of touch that even in their official manifesto for May’s local elections their housing pledge is that they will “fight to reduce the number we need to construct”. This is a disgraceful response to an epidemic that is ruining lives, tearing our communities apart and risks us becoming a rich investors’ playground while everyone else suffers.

Croydon Labour is building properties that will give priority to those people living in the community

Meanwhile, Croydon Labour is working towards a real solution to fix this problem with development company Brick by Brick. Through this initiative, we are now seeing properties built that will give priority to those living in, or with very strong ties to, our community. We are taking a stand against the monopoly of outside speculative investment in property that sees homes left empty, going to waste while the greedy few wait for the most profitable time to sell. We are fighting the appalling HRA cap that stops councils like ours from building the council houses that we so desperately need.

It was your Labour council that, following the Grenfell Tower disaster, was the first local authority to commit to retrofitting sprinkler systems in our council-owned blocks – despite a total lack of government support. As I write this, the news has come through that our campaign run by local Labour MPs Steve Reed and Sarah Jones, along with Labour’s Fairfield candidates, has been successful in getting Citiscape developers to agree to replace their dangerous cladding at no charge to residents. Shamefully, there was no support on this from the Conservative government. This just goes to show the difference that Labour representatives can make, and how the Conservatives still fail to represent people’s basic needs.

Labour has cracked down on rogue landlords

It was your Labour council that introduced the Landlord Licensing Scheme in order to raise the quality of rented property in our community and crack down on rogue landlords. And, if elected in Addiscombe East, I will be one of your Labour councillors working with local tenants to set up Croydon’s first branch of Tenants Union UK.

On Thursday 3rd May, Croydon residents go to the polls to elect our representatives for the next four years. This crucial election is the opportunity to decide between a Labour council committed to delivering the homes our community needs, or a Conservative council which will continue to block house building and look the other way while thousands of families are left without a home. Vote Labour on Thursday 3rd May and join us in calling on the government to scrap the cap and let us build.

Caragh Skipper

Caragh Skipper

Caragh is a lifelong Croydonian, a Labour activist and a council candidate for Addiscombe East. To read Labour's manifesto for the local elections, go here.

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  • Robert Ward

    Thank you Caragh. I would like to point out a couple of areas where I think you have not made the picture clear.

    Firstly, on Croydon Labour’s Housing policy I have written on the issues with this and how it is misleading.

    On landlord licensing the Croydon scheme operates as a (costly) landlord registration scheme. As far as I am aware there have been no resulting prosecutions. What prosecutions have occurred have been of Houses of Multiple occupancy (HMOs) which is a national requirement for registration. The scheme has added cost to both tenants and landlords to no benefit.

    Regarding your quote from the Croydon Conservatives manifesto this is in relation to the very high target set by the London Mayor. Croydon, which has delivered housing for many years, at least until Labour got into power, has been disproportionately affected. Intensive development by removing green spaces creates extra housing but at the expense of destroying communities.

    Your assertion about greedy developers waiting for the right time to sell whilst leaving properties empty is without evidence. Data is hard to come by because FoI requests are routinely ruled inadmissible but what evidence there is shows this to be a tiny number, if any at all.

    On Brick by Brick avoiding public scrutiny and the right-to-buy appears to be a key aim. Social housing, whilst it is an important part of the property scene represents about 20% of the market. Many people aspire to home ownership which is a far larger part of the property tenure landscape. Labour have btw built no council houses in contrast to the previous Tory-led council.

    • Ian Marvin

      Just replying on the landlord registration scheme, there has been a good deal of enforcement and certainly it has caused landlords to up their game and comply with otherwise unenforced basic standards. Prosecution is always going to be a last resort as the aim is to improve professionalism.