Liberal Democrats in Southwark have ensured their national party policy tackles the ongoing housing crisis in inner city areas like Southwark.
Southwark residents face a double housing whammy. The Labour council often allows developers off the hook over their affordable housing provision. It has also demolished or sold off 1,721 council homes in the past five years, while only 44 new council homes have replaced them. Since the general election the Conservatives have also announced a raft of new housing policies that will have a negative impact on Southwark.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has made housing the Party’s top priority and its conference last month agreed ambitious new plans to build more new homes. They also attacked Government plans to extend the Right-to-Buy to housing association tenants and to force councils to sell off their most valuable housing stock to pay for the policy.
Southwark Liberal Democrat councillors Adele Morris and Anood Al-Samerai moved an amendment in the conference debate. The amendment highlighted some of the issues Southwark residents face when looking for a home, including:
- housing associations setting their affordable rent at the same level as the current housing benefit cap, which could be subject to further reduction by the Government, leaving tenants to pick up the tab.
- intermediate and shared ownership housing schemes frequently requiring a household income significantly higher than the median wage locally.
- Government plans to charge higher rent for existing social housing tenants with a household income greater than £40,000 in London. This will make continued renting of council properties much more difficult for many existing tenants.
The amendment also called on the Liberal Democrats to:
- prioritise new housing for those on lower incomes.
- ensure new social housing is given priority on unwanted public sector sites where there is a shortage of council-owned land to develop.
- campaign for the restoration of grants for housing associations and greater council control over the affordable rent levels for housing association homes in areas where market rents are disproportionately higher than the median income, like in Southwark.
- allow a higher income threshold for housing authorities where social housing rents are raised for existing tenants and for the level to be fixed by an independent body.
The Southwark Liberal Democrat amendment was accepted and incorporated into the main housing motion and is now Party policy.
Southwark Liberal Democrat Planning Spokesperson, Councillor Adele Morris, said:
“Southwark Liberal Democrats are fighting residents’ corner and we are pushing the Council to do much more on building desperately needed new and genuinely affordable homes.
“Labour’s housing record in Southwark has been poor despite all their spin. They let developers build far fewer affordable homes than they should. Labour have also demolished or sold forty times more council homes than they have built since 2010.
“Now new Tory plans could spell the death knell for genuinely affordable housing as we know it in Southwark. Extending the right-to-buy to housing association tenants will mean even fewer homes for local people on the waiting list. And forcing councils to sell off their higher value homes will mean social cleansing for many of our neighbourhoods.
“Liberal Democrats nationally have made housing one of our top priorities. I’m delighted that conference accepted Southwark Liberal Democrats’ proposals to make sure that the particular housing problems in inner city areas like ours are not forgotten.”