Westminster Labour Group has called for Westminster Council to be more ambitious in its plans to provide new social and genuinely affordable housing. In its response to Westminster Council’s draft 5 year Housing Strategy, Labour Councillors have published a wide ranging set of proposals, including;
• Increase affordable housing targets – The planning target for affordable house building should be increased to 40% of new homes. This plan would see an additional 2135 affordable homes built in the borough over the next 5 years (885 more than under the Conservative plans) based on the overall level of Westminster house building set out in the Mayor’s London Plan This is the amount of new affordable housing Westminster says it requires to meet its housing need and what many other inner London boroughs are already planning to build in the next few years.
• Oppose the selling off of council homes to fund RTB – The council needs to strongly oppose the Government’s proposed funding mechanism for its Housing Association Right to buy scheme. If it proceeds it must ensure that the council retains enough funds to replace sold properties with new homes built within Westminster.
• Provide more homes for families earning under £40K – Plans need to be developed to provide more homes at intermediate rents for families earning under £40k and new schemes for shared ownership without reducing new social housing units in these uncertain times.
• Keep 60% of new affordable homes for low income families – Halt changes to increase the percentage of new homes that are intermediate given the governments council house sell off threat.
• Tackle the scandal of empty homes with a mix of penalties and incentives.
• Stop lobbying to building outside the borough – The council should stop calling for a change in the law that would enable Westminster to build permanent homes outside the local authority boundary.
• Do more to help those in the Private Rented Sector – It is very important that Westminster Private Rented Sector strategy is produced and the council do far more to promote the London rental standard and the London Landlord Accreditation Scheme
• Improve resident engagement – Westminster council needs to consult residents more in its management of its housing stock and plans for the future, protecting CityWest Home’s important estate office network.
• Tackle unemployment – Unemployment amongst Westminster’s social housing and homeless populations is very high. The council should be developing schemes to tackle this as well as using building projects as opportunities to train residents for construction jobs.
Leader of the Labour Group Councillor Adam Hug said:
“In order to meet the real housing challenges Westminster faces and to provide opportunities for ordinary families the Council must commit to ensuring a much higher proportion of new houses built here are social or genuinely affordable homes. With other inner London boroughs showing much greater ambition it’s time for Westminster to up its game and deliver the amount of affordable homes even it admits that it should be building.”
Councillor Vincenzo Rampulla, Labour’s Housing spokesperson’ said:
“With so many Westminster residents, both young and old, now renting from private landlords, there is recognition across parties that it is time the council incorporated the tenure in its plans. Given how much of working families income now gets spent on rent and the millions of pounds of public money that is given to the sector each year, our proposals would start to ensure that the private rented sector is fit for purpose for Westminster residents.”
Labour’s plan would deliver over 780 more social homes and more than 100 intermediate homes over 5 years than the current Conservative proposals.
Labour’s house building plans refer to changing the proportion of new housing being built that are affordable, not necessarily the overall number of homes being built (though where appropriate this may be welcome). Therefore Conservative arguments about land availability reducing scope for house building miss the point that this is based on the amount of housing that is already proposed to be built in Westminster over the coming years in the London Plan.
Taking a tougher line in negotiating housing deals can generate more funding for affordable housing as the recently elected Labour administration in Hammersmith have shown in obtaining an additional £50 million investment that will support 231 more affordable homes and other projects in just one year.
The Labour response is here Westminster Housing Strategy response-1