Opinion: Fighting for homes our families deserve
PUBLISHED: 11:00 07 November 2019
It's that time of year again: the countdown to Christmas has begun.
Mariah Carey is back in the charts, the nation is awaiting the latest John Lewis Christmas ad, and we'll all be thinking about where we are spending the festive period - hoping for no family arguments this year!
For many, however, this festive period won't bring welcome relief from the daily routine. The reality of homelessness or desperately substandard homes continues. For the 6,000 families on Camden's housing waiting list, their Christmas will be in overcrowded homes, often with no living rooms to hold a family dinner in, or separate bedrooms where children wake up to presents from Santa.
Many families in Camden would love nothing else for Christmas than what many of us assume is a basic human right - a safe, warm, secure, and adequately sized home for their families.
This terrible reality is what drove my desire to stand for Camden Council and is one of the council's top priorities all year round.
Since 2010, we have ended the previous Conservative/Lib Dem council's shameless auctioning-off of our council homes. But more than this, we have launched a massive programme of public investment, constructing the first new council housing in Camden for a generation.
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Despite cuts to affordable housing funding nationally, and nearly a decade of austerity, the council has managed to build 350 new council homes, two new homeless hostels, community centres, and new or renovated schools for 17,000 Camden children.
Unfortunately, every step of the way, this programme has been opposed by the Camden Conservatives.
Their latest attempts includes trying to delay a new scheme on Camley Street, which would deliver significantly more new local jobs as well as a least 50 per cent new genuinely affordable homes, where none exist already. They have also sought to launch a "review" of our housebuilding programme, whilst putting forward no alternative strategy - apart from championing privatisation, of course.
Opposition councillors are doing this at the same time as the government hinders, rather than supports, council house builders like Camden.
The government recently announced a 1pc increase in the interest rate for borrowing by councils - which is nothing short of a tax on housebuilding, undermining plans for new homes by town halls across the country.
This reckless decision, and the plight of so many of our local families, is why I this week wrote to the Treasury, alongside 34 other senior councillors representing 20 London boroughs, calling on the chancellor to rethink his decision urgently.
By Christmas we will know the outcome of the election, and the government that is likely to shape our housing for the next five years. It is important that the next government matches Camden's ambition for council housing. We need to see a rolling back of regulations and restrictions on councils that build homes. We also need significant national investment for council housing - recognising it as vital national infrastructure.
Here in Camden, regardless of the outcome nationally, our New Year's resolution is to continue the fight for the homes and future our families deserve. We won't stop our ambitious building programme, and are committed to deliver at least 400 new council and living rent homes in the next four years - hopefully offering a brighter Christmas for families in the years ahead.