Barnet's Labour councillors have announced their package of election pledges on housing this week.
The housing pledges address affordability of housing which is now one of the top 3 concerns for local people according to the council's latest Residents' Perception Survey. The average price of a house in Barnet is around £451,000, which is unaffordable for most people living in the Borough considering the average salary is £35,000 per annum and mortgage lenders generally only permit borrowing of up to 3 times salary.
Housing charity Shelter has defined the level of Barnet’s private sector rents as “extremely unaffordable”, and they are now the highest in outer-London. The average private rent for a two bedroom home takes up about 56% of average take-home pay. In Barnet the average private rent for a two bedroom home is about £1,200 a month, £1,614 per month for a three bedroom home and £2,909 per month for a four or more bedroom home.
The Barnet Conservative Council Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Tom Davey, said: “We are yet to experience the stage where people realise that actually Barnet isn’t affordable and make the choice to move further out.”
Because of the shortage in affordable homes the number of families having to live in expensive temporary or emergency accommodation is increasing which is costing the council millions of pounds. The temporary and emergency accommodation budget was overspent by £729,000 at the end of last year with 638 families placed in emergency accommodation.
Other pledges include scrapping the Bedroom Tax, bringing empty homes back in use and championing private tenants rights.
A Labour council will also establish an independent Housing Commission to give a real focus to tackling the housing crisis in Barnet.
The housing pledges that Labour have announced are:
· Labour will build more genuinely affordable homes.
Barnet has the highest rents in outer-London, home ownership is falling and homelessness is increasing. The Conservatives have not built enough affordable homes – we will build more.
· Labour will scrap the Bedroom Tax.
The Bedroom Tax is forcing many vulnerable residents into debt. A Labour government will scrap the Bedroom Tax. Until then a priority will be to make greater use of Discretionary Housing Payments to help those hit by this unfair tax.
· Labour will bring more empty homes back in use.
There are over 3,000 empty homes in Barnet. We will use New Homes Bonus money sitting in council coffers to bring empty homes back in use at affordable rents.
· Labour will introduce a private tenants’ rights charter.
We will also tackle rogue landlords by cracking down on beds in sheds, poor conditions and overcrowding and support good landlords through our housing commission.
· Labour will listen to you through our housing commission.
Housing is in crisis, and we need to fix it. Our independent housing commission will work to get a fair deal for leaseholders, tenants and landlords, and to find housing solutions for those who cannot afford to buy or rent.
Leader of the Labour Group, Cllr Alison Moore said:
"Having a roof over your head is one of the basic human rights that we should all be able to take for granted, but in the current housing crisis more and more people are finding they cannot afford to either buy or rent in Barnet. Many working families are having to be split-up and moved out of the Borough or placed in emergency accommodation. And young people are having to live with their parents until well into their 30's and even 40's, while homelessness is increasing.
"We must start tackling this housing crisis that is affecting both the squeezed middle income households and the poorest in our community."
Labour's Housing Spokesperson, Cllr Julie Johnson said:
"We need to build more homes that are genuinely affordable to ordinary people, and work harder at bringing empty homes back in to use. We also must protect the most vulnerable in our community who are struggling with the unfair Bedroom Tax that has been imposed by this Conservative government."
1. A copy of Labour's Housing Pledges is attached.
2. Details of the Residents’ Perception Survey can be found here: http://engage.barnet.gov.uk/consultation-team/residents-perception-survey-2013
3. Details of Shelter’s Private Rent Watch: http://england.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/386828/Private_Rent_Watch_Report_1.pdf
4 For full details of Cllr Davey's quote can be found here: http://www.barnet-today.co.uk/News.cfm?id=42270&headline=Ascounciltriestocutnumbersintemporaryaccommodationdemandsoars