I earn �66,000 but I can’t afford to leave council flat
�MP Frank Dobson says he lives in a council flat because he cannot afford to rent privately in his constituency – despite earning �66,000 a year.
The Labour representative for Holborn and St Pancras shares the three-bedroom flat with his wife Janet, a university researcher.
The couple continued to live there even while Mr Dobson served as a health minister in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour cabinet.
Asked why he lived in a council property when he could afford to rent privately, he said: “I couldn’t – not very easily. Market rents in our area are phenomenal.”
The 71-year-old said he didn’t know how much rent he paid, adding: “Certainly not what would be regarded these days as the market rent, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”
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Mr Dobson said that house prices in London were now so high that even people earning a decent wage were not living comfortably.
“Very large numbers of people, who in any other part of the country would be regarded as reasonably well off, are not comfortably off in London and the reason is because of house prices and rents, which are insane,” he said.
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“It all stems from the obsession that you must own your own home, rather than renting.
“That has a very big economic impact because in most of continental Europe, quite comfortably off people rent – they don’t buy – and they put their savings into industrial and commercial enterprises.”
His constituency includes Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park, Chalk Farm, Gospel Oak, Kentish Town, Highgate, Camden Town, King’s Cross, Holborn, Bloomsbury and part of Covent Garden.
It has the sixth largest electorate at 87,000 and the biggest population – of 143,000.
Despite the housing shortage, Mr Dobson said that the coalition government was wrong to change the rules on who was eligible for a council house, and warn people who earned �100,000 to pay market rent or move out.
“I think it’s wrong,” Mr Dobson said, “W. R. O. N. G.”
This, he argued, was because it was important to have people of mixed incomes living in council estates to avoid creating ghettos.
“If people living in a council property are paying rent and they get a bit better off, if you want mixed communities you want them to stay and not leave so that another impoverished family moves in – because that way you create sink estates.
“The idea of a deliberate policy which increases the chance of creating sink estates seems to me to be loony.”
The only solution to the current housing shortage was to build more social housing, he said.
“I’m a very simple soul and it seems to me that there is only one answer to the housing shortage and that’s to build more houses.”