This is my first blog of the new year and I hope you all had a good break over the festive period. In my last blog, I wrote about how the housing crisis is affecting the amount of homeless people there are living on the streets on Britain. As the Green Party candidate for Redbridge and Havering, I wish to express my frustration at a new housing development in Ilford. Just to give you a bit of background knowledge, property values in Ilford have risen by 5.71% in the last year, according to Zoopla, and by 24.53% in the past five years. Property industry giants Jones Lang LaSalle claim that of all the areas set to benefit from Crossrail, Ilford will lead the way in terms of price growth. Now, after securing a £25m loan from the Mayor of London's Housing Zones initiative, developers Durkan will be building 354 new homes on the Britannia Music site, which had been lying empty since 2007. Durkan's online advertisement trumpets: "stylish one, two and three bedroom apartments in a fantastic, well-connected location in the heart of Ilford, just 16 minutes by train to Liverpool Street station". This makes it abundantly clear that the developers' prime targets are not local residents at all, but city slickers, themselves priced out of central London.
I completely support the building of new homes in Ilford. However I am disappointed in the amount of genuinely affordable new homes that will be provided on the Britannia Music site. Out of those 354 homes only 93 will be classed as "affordable". That means that 74% of the homes on this site will not be affordable for Redbridge residents. Further, given that a lot of the funding for this will come from City Hall, we know that the Mayor's definition of affordable is 80% of the market rate - which really isn't affordable at all for people on low and average incomes. According to the Centre for Cities Think Tank, a quarter of private renters in London claim Housing Benefit - therefore this development has the potential for making the benefit bill even higher. Sadly, most of the homes being built on this are for private rent. However our mayoral candidate Sian Berry has announced a policy whereby every private renter in London will automatically be part of a City Hall funded Renters Union that will provide advice and support including for the residents that will be living on this site. So under a Green administration at City Hall, we can really hold Durkan to account regarding the standards of these homes.
I am disappointed though that the Labour-led Redbridge Council has completely backed this, given that their Housing Strategy document states that Redbridge is the most expensive Outer London Borough for Housing. As I said in my previous blog, If City Hall worked with Councils, Housing Associations and communities more and took a tougher stance on big developers, we could build more truly affordable homes for residents. This also shows why we need more Greens elected to City Hall and having more genuinely affordable homes built for residents in Redbridge and Havering will be one of my priorities if I am elected to the London Assembly.