On Thursday 14th May 2015, a thought provoking article appeared in the Evening Standard which compared the current lack of affordable housing across all socio – economic groups to that of Paris, where gentrification of inner city areas has led to poorer people being pushed out into the suburbs. It’s apparent that housing policy over successive governments following New Labours decisive victory in 1997, have failed to tackle an acute shortage of affordable homes, or housing stock designated for those on welfare.
It remains to be seen how the current government policy decides to tackle this important electoral issue as much press time has been dedicated to this singular issue in the run up to, and the in the aftermath of the general election. Over the last decade, many areas of Central London have been left out of the reach of many ‘ordinary’ Londoners, and seemingly appear reserved for wealthy foreign investors and entrepreneurs. This has led to an increase in the transformation of previously, undesirable inner city areas which were once dominated by a landscape social housing blocks and rundown High streets. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Stratford, the home of the London Olympics and in other areas such as Hackney and Elephant and Castle, which received a huge influx of capital to redevelop the area. This underinvestment in social housing has clearly exacerbated the current situation, in addition to failing to address another huge housing concern of poor quality social rental accommodation affected by housing disrepair issues such as prevalent damp and mouldy conditions. Whilst many assurances have been made to increase the building of homes across brownfield sites situated around the South/South East of London to support the growing population, it remains to be seen whether this will result in a significant number of homes being built to fulfil the current demand. The current elected Government has audaciously committed to extending the right to buy scheme, introduced under the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher, and which is embodied in chapter V of the Housing Act 1988 to social housing tenants. Many critics have rightly commented that this will fail to tackle the inadequate number of social housing stock to meet current and future demand for homes, as ownership of such homes will outstrip the numbers of homes built to accommodate for the continued demand for social housing.
Currently a number of London Boroughs are noted to elect to re-house many families who have strong ties and links to their communities, many miles outside London in social housing accommodation due to this crisis. A number of uncertain factors leave in doubt how and when a significant improvement will be achieved in the number and quality of homes allocated for social housing, but for now it is clear that a rising population and increase in net migration will continue to place an ever increasing burden upon welfare and housing.