Thursday 20 September 2007

H&F Council Called On To Provide Affordable Housing To Buy And To Rent

There was a full council meeting last night. One of the debates was on the provision of affordable housing. London’s thirty three boroughs are responsible for ensuring that at least 50% of all properties built in their area are affordable homes to buy and to rent. H&F Council have set a target of just 40%. The previous Labour Administration delivered 82%.

Apart from denying many thousands of people a chance to get onto the housing ladder the Conservative Administration has opened themselves up to accusations that they are deliberately picking a fight with the Mayor of London, just to play party politics with this important strategic and moral issue. I must admit, there was wide-spread sniggering on the Tory benches when this was suggested to them last night.

However, the room fell quiet and there were shamed faces on the Conservative side of the Council Chamber when Cllr. Jean Campbell (Lab) spoke movingly of her experiences living in affordable rented housing and called on the Conservative Administration to reconsider their plans. Here’s what she said:

Cllr Jean Campbell's Speech to Full Council.
Wednesday, 19th September 2007

"I am the only person in this chamber to live in a council home and one of the few who live in social housing. So, if you forgive me, I will go as far to say that I have a unique understanding of what that is like.

I have rented my home on the White City Estate for 32 years. In the 1970s, I worked as an auxiliary nurse in the West London Hospital. I then got a job as an administrator in the DTI.

With four children to feed and clothe, my husband and I never really thought we had the wages to buy our own property but, we were happy to rent and we like where we live.

My husband took ill a few years back and I have looked after him since I retired. I split my time between caring for him, the tenants association and my duties as a councillor.

I’m not against home ownership. My children have bought their own place and I’m very proud of them for doing so. But, it was rented accommodation that provided that platform for my family.

There have been a number of schemes available for some years. Maybe I could have afforded one of them at some point. But, life happens and if you’re on a low wage you need some certainty. Renting offered that certainty. It made our family home affordable.

There are eight thousand people in our borough in need of an affordable home. There’s another fifteen hundred people living in temporary accommodation.

Nine thousand, five hundred people in total. It’s easy to hear that just as a number but they are real people. People with kids, and hopes and fears and lives, and like me… renting is the only way that most will be able to afford a home.

A home… I guess that is something that all councillors in this chamber are lucky enough to have – maybe some people never really thought about it as luck or as a privilege but it is exactly that to each of those nine thousand, five hundred people. Something they need so that they and their families can get on with their lives.

As Mayor Livingstone pointed out; the last Labour Administration ensured that 82% of all housing built in Hammersmith and Fulham was affordable. Affordable to buy and affordable to rent. Our borough was applauded by Shelter, the London Federation of Tenants’ Associations and leading academics. You plan to deliver less than half of that.

I have sat here during these meetings and I've listened to you talk... I’ve come to understand your priorities and I’ve seen what you are doing.

It is easy to see your political opponents as bad people… I don’t!

But I don’t think you have any understanding of the devastating harm that you are doing by cutting back the affordable housing programme.

It is clear to me that many of you have lived lives very different to mine.

I tell you now and I hope I can get through to you... You are slamming the door shut on the hopes of thousands and thousands of people who need somewhere decent to live. You are condemning those people and their children to years of misery. If you don’t know that, then I encourage you to look again… And please… Stop attacking Mr. Livingstone for sticking up for people like me.

Thank you."

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