A roof over our head and four walls to keep the elements at bay comes second only to having food in our stomachs when we think about the necessities of life but, for too many of our fellow citizens finding somewhere to live and the ruinous cost of it once they have, is becoming a waking nightmare.
The reason is simple – as London’s population has soared the number of new homes built has fallen short of what was required to stand still let alone cope with the existing backlog. London now has the most expensive housing in the country and the city is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy property. Little wonder ordinary Londoners are struggling.
According to the Government’s statistics average full time earnings in Lewisham are £30,368 a year. But you have to earn £100,000 a year to be able to afford a mortgage in London. Renting is even more expensive than buying and the government have defined “affordable rent” as being 80% of the open market rent which in London is beyond average incomes.
If the reason for London’s housing crisis is simple, are the solutions simple too? In one way they are – we need to build thousands of new homes each year of all types so that the market slows down and costs begin to return to sensible levels. But making that happen requires government at all levels to make housing a priority so that land is made available rather than stockpiled, councils are given the ability to borrow to build an increased number of really affordable new homes, and the homes that are built are rented or sold to people who want to live in them, not treated as investment opportunities.
In Lewisham we are building some good quality temporary units for those in urgent housing need on a site that will later have a permanent development including new homes on it. We are building permanent new homes as well and only last week identified sites for a further 124 with many more to follow. Meanwhile we will be pressing anyone who stands for parliament or as Mayor of London to make it a priority to work with Lewisham and the rest of the Boroughs to build more and more homes until we have this crisis under control.