Croydon’s Communist Party Sets Out Measures to Tackle Britain’s Housing Crisis

There are 5,000 people on the Croydon council housing list, many of them officially homeless. This is only likely to increase as people are being forced out of Lambeth and other neighbouring boroughs due to the increasing cost of housing. Many have been put in temporary accommodation. Across Britain, around two million families are stuck on council and housing association waiting lists, with the Tories spitefully striking off 113,000 people by changing the way in which people qualify.

Ben Stevenson, Communist Party general election candidate for Croydon North, said, “I think this is a scandal and is symptomatic of the Tory-Lib Dem Government’s refusal to tackle the country’s housing crisis. Britain has the seventh largest economy in the world. We should be building decent homes for all who need them. Instead, we are failing those least able to defend themselves, forcing them to squeeze in to B&Bs. Not only are the conditions often cramped and squalid, but children suffer as they have no place to play or do their homework. These are modern day slums; and this is a massive waste of taxpayers’ money.”

House prices in London are continuing to spiral out of control. According to recent figures from the Land Registry, prices in Croydon have risen by 17% over the last year (against a London average of 11%). This is caused by a shortage of housing in the capital, the activities of ‘buy to let’ landlords and the Government’s fundamentally misconceived Funding for Lending scheme which fuels another speculative bubble.

The average property value in Croydon is now £324,000. According to ONS statistics, the average wage in Croydon is £24,336. As real wages have fallen for most people since the start of the recession, house prices in Croydon are now less affordable, compared to earnings, than ever before. It’s usually considered that a reasonable level for house prices is about three times that of earnings. But, for the first time, we are seeing average London house price which are thirteen times the average wage. People are being forced to take on absurd levels of debt to buy a home.

Mr Stevenson said, “Clearly, this isn’t sustainable. At some point the bubble will burst. Local politicians are failing to meet the housing needs of those least able to defend themselves: the poor, the vulnerable and the socially excluded. Meanwhile the number of new houses being built is falling to an all-time low. The only significant building projects that get the green light are those that promise yet more luxury apartments in an attempt to lure high earners away from Central London. The supply of social housing in Croydon is of course, woefully inadequate. Years of neglect by the local Tory council, along with central New Labour and Tory Government housing policies, has left Croydon with a smaller housing stock then almost any other London boroughs. Even the Council’s own Housing Strategy admits that Croydon is ill-equipped to meet housing need. An entire generation of people in Croydon are being systematically denied their right to decent affordable housing.

The communist party is absolutely clear. Having a decent place to live should be a basic human right. Labour has failed to take this issue seriously. Their policy on house building is opaque. Is it 200,000 or 250,000. Is that per year or just by 2020? Are those affordable homes or just more sky scrapers built to provide luxury apartments? How exactly is this meant to be achieved if not through a programme of council house building? In fact this policy commitment seems to be based on an expectation that the housing and construction market will itself magically deliver a solution.

We need, as a matter of urgency, to campaign for a significant council house building programme, an end to the bedroom tax, an end to council house sales, compulsory requisitioning of long term empty properties and rent controls in the private sector. Our immediate priority has to be to tackle private landlords. Rather than vague commitments to cap rents at CPI, I want to see an immediate rental cap of 50 per cent of average local earnings, driving it down until it’s 25 per cent.

Ultimately, we need more council housing across Britain. Just 37 per cent of accommodation let privately meets decent homes association standards compared to all council properties. We urgently need an inspection team – with the power to actually force landlords to act and to take properties into democratically accountable hands when they don’t. Only the Communist Party offers these and other progressive policies which matter to ordinary working people.”

Communists in Croydon published a pamphlet in 2014 on the growing housing crisis in the borough, Decent Homes For All: End Croydon’s Housing Crisis Now! This publication seeks to explain the why and how of Croydon’s housing crisis. Copies are available on this blogsite or by contacting us direct.

Notes to editors:
1. For enquiries phone 0208 686 1659 or e-mail croydon@communist-party.org.uk
2. Ben Stevenson is 30 years old and National Organiser of the Communist Party. Since moving to Croydon from his native Birmingham in 2005, he has been heavily involved in local labour movement politics through the Croydon Save Our Schools Campaign, the campaign against the Beddington Lane Incinerator and the Croydon Trades Union Council’s Executive Committee. He stood as a Communist Party candidate in the 2012 Croydon North by-election and the 2014 Bensham Manor local election.
3. The Communist Party was founded in 1920 and is part of an international movement involving millions of people in more than 100 countries across the globe.

That was not democracy

Whatever it is we have been experiencing over the last six weeks, it was not democracy. Democracy is rule by people. It requires the people to have free, unbiased and digestible information enabling them to engage in discussion and debate before reaching their decisions. What we have just experienced satisfies none of these criteria. It was nothing more than a quinquennial  circus, largely  paid for by big business and wealthy individuals with vested interests in the outcome. It fell well short of true democracy for the following reasons:

  1. Under our first-past-the post system, most voters are deprived of any influence over the outcome. In consequence, a significant proportion of voters have not registered to vote or, if they have, will not bother to vote.
  2. The winners will claim legitimacy even though the majority of the population have not have voted for them. This is in sharp contrast to Tory plans requiring workers to secure a majority of those who are entitled to vote in every workplace before industrial action can be taken.
  3. Voters will have no say in any deals stitched up after the election.
  4. Once elected, MPs will be insulated from and hence largely insensitive to the views of those who elected them.
  5. The reporting of the election has been dominated by privately owned mass media whose owners are neither UK voters nor UK taxpayers and by a BBC running scared of changes to its charter and license fee by the winners of the election. To make matters worse, most journalists in every media are unrepresentative of the nation to which they report, being predominately white, middle class and Oxbridge educated.
  6. The MPs we elect, whatever the result, will also be unrepresentative. Not only will they earn around three times the average wage, they will have more job security and much better pensions than most of those who elected them. They will be drawn predominately from professional and managerial backgrounds. Like journalists, they will be predominately men, privately educated, Oxbridge graduates. Many like the (hopefully outgoing) Prime Minister will come from wealthy backgrounds.
  7. It is impossible to have democracy at the national level unless it is underpinned by local government democracy. The latter has been gutted as Peter Latham describes in great detail in his excellent book[i].
  8. It is impossible to have democracy at the national level if it is denied us in the workplace. The anti-trade union legislation in place in the UK conflicts with international agreements freely entered into by previous governments. For more information on this illegality, refer to Union Rights…and Wrongs[ii]
  9. Power no longer lies with elected MPs. They are whipped into conformity by the political parties, and they can no longer legislate in a number of areas due the EU.
  10. The dominant political parties are financed by big business and wealthy individuals.

In the light of these shortcomings, don’t expect too much from the forthcoming election. Austerity must be opposed whoever wins, but this will be much harder if the Tories form the next government. A Labour government is a necessary but insufficient condition to oppose austerity. A vote for the Communists, when available, will help with this. But the real fight starts after the election. In Croydon this means building the Communist Party locally and supporting the Croydon TUC and its Croydon Assembly initiative on Saturday, 6 June.

[i] The State and Local Government by Peter Latham, Manifesto Press, 2011. £14.95 from the Communist Party

[ii] Union Rights…and Wrongs: the reform of Britain’s anti-union laws by John Hendy QC 2001. The Institute of Employment Rights.