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.

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Ben Stevenson’s answers to Croydon Advertiser’s q&a

 

As part of their coverage of the election in Croydon North, the Croydon Advertiser sent a few round robin questions to all candidates. Here’s Communist candidate Ben Stevenson’s answers in full:

What would you do to improve the public image of Croydon North?

This is presumably a question for those parties that have lots of policies on cleaning up dog shit and street lamps. I’d start by improving Croydon North itself rather than worrying about its public image. We need jobs, we need investment, we need public facilities, we need democratic accountability, we don’t need image consultants. Croydon is not a tourist destination or a concept it’s a community of people. I’d concern myself with improving the lives of the people of Croydon North first – that would be an example worth fighting for and promoting across Croydon, London, England, Britain and the rest of the globe.


Name one thing you have done, or would do, to make Croydon North a better place.

Bring democracy back to the people. Set up local street level bodies and fighting for the transfer of real powers to them. We’d also fight for more powers for the local council, stop political parties from being able to pay companies to do their job for them. Introduce a spending limit on campaigns and donations to political parties. Fight for the introduction of single transferable vote in all elections in England. Campaign for a federal democratic Britain with separate economic, legislative and other powers for Scotland, Wales, London (and other regions of England where it is wanted). Withdraw from the bosses club of the EU (a policy we’ve had for more than sixty years by the way) and end our involvement in foreign wars and costly expenditure on useless nuclear weapons.

 
What would you do to diversify Croydon North’s high streets?

Support the development of local small businesses and co-operatives
Our manifesto commits us to closing all tax loopholes and going after monopoly corporations and the super rich who own the vast majority of Britain’s wealth so we can help support and develop small enterprises and the cooperative sector. Not only would this benefit employers, it would benefit workers as well as cooperatives in particular eliminate the need for bureaucratic middle management (the David Brent’s of this world would be a thing of the past). 
Getting rid of the betting shops, pay day loans and cash for gold shops plaguing our high street. And I’d also work with others to ensure all Croydon council contracts new and old are with local public companies – particularly those cooperatively owned and run.

  
Croydon North is seen as a foregone conclusion electorally. What would you say to people to reassure them their vote is still worthwhile?

All the mainstream parties (including the likes of UKiP who are just as much a part of the political establishment as the rest of them) are counting on your indifference in this election, none of them are putting any resources, campaigning or even bothering to turn up on your doorstep or in your communities to find out what you care about and what you’re interested in. That tells you all you need to know about what they’re interested in – your vote and that’s it. They don’t care about truly fighting for or representing you. I do. Whatever government is elected, the people of Croydon North need someone in parliament and on their streets who will fight for them. What’s more we won’t disappear after the elections over. Communists in Croydon will continue to fight on the other 364 days of the year for the interests of ordinary hard working people.

 
What would you do to reduce the burden on Croydon University Hospital and improve the NHS?

Reopen neighbouring hospitals, facilities and build more (not through PFI!) to ease the pressure on Croydon University Hospital. Transferring services to GPs has just lumped work onto already overworked surgeries and erected another barrier between people and proper medical care. Reverse the Tories health and social care act and kick the profiteers out of our NHS. I’ve had personal experience of just how overstretched, bureaucratised and obsessed with delivering the lowest quality of care for the cheapest amount of money the NHS trust has become. I’d kick out Virgin health and set up a board composed of unions, doctors, nurses, patients and local representatives to run our hospital. We’d also either scrap or pay the tuition fees of any person in Croydon North who wants to get a medical degree – providing they commit to spending 6 years practicing I’m the borough when they start practicing.

 
How would you tackle the housing crisis in Croydon North?

Build more council housing rather than another yet another glass tower block with luxury apartments and shopping complexes. End the selling off of council housing stock. Introduce a rental cap of 50% of average earnings locally – reducing it each year until it’s at 25%. Scrap the bedroom tax. Provide a grant for all working families to enable them to meet the ridiculously high cost of private renting. Set up a dedicated private sector inspection team to look at the quality and overcrowding in existing private rental accommodation (only 37% of those owned by private landlords, meet the decent homes association standards whereas 100% of council housing does). All this and a hell of a lot more is in our pamphlet produced in 2010 to deal with the housing crisis in Croydon – when nobody else was talking about the issue.

 
What effect do you think immigration has had on Croydon North?
What would you do to improve the public image of Croydon North?
This  economic, legislative and other powers l

Croydon North is an incredibly contradictory constituency, it’s one of the most diverse parts of our borough – something that we should celebrate and fight to protect from racists, fascists and xenophobes. But it’s also one of the most deprived parts of London, immigration isn’t the cause of this it’s a symptom. In the 1950s immigrants from the west Indies and Indian subcontinent were blamed for the economic problems faced by white workers, it’s classic divide and rule tactics. The interests of working class people are the same whatever country they come from and whatever ethnicity they are. We are of course in favour of leaving the EU and NATO – and establishing proper mutually beneficial economic, diplomatic and friendly relationships between countries in Europe and the rest of the world. Investing in other countries (and other parts of Britain) and developing their infrastructure is the only way to reduce the level of immigration – people migrate because they’re looking for work and better lives. Britain is the sixth richest country in the globe it is a crime that has been perpetrated by a tiny minority (less than 1%) of the population on the majority. Austerity has actually made the rich richer and the poor poorer we’d end that trend and much more…

And now for something completely different

While the Croydon Communist Party’s election campaign in Croydon North gathers pace, let’s take a break and look at what’s happening in Croydon South. Notwithstanding some nervousness by the Tory candidate, Chris Philip, over UKIP – in his election address he blames the Tory’s loss of Croydon Council last year to Labour by 10 seats to UKIP defections – this seat is a plumb job for life for whoever the Tory Party selects. This is especially true if the appointee can keep his previous business interests going. Who can live on an MP’s salary of £74,000 these days?

This will suit Mr Philip. He’s a Cambridge graduate in physics, which means he’s smart and expert in mathematics. Like many with this qualification, however, he turned his back on physics and applied his skills to the murky but more lucrative world of finance, i.e. those clever people who brought the economy to its knees in 2007-8, not, as the Tories would have you believe, the Labour Party by employing too many nurses. Having abandoned physics he went to work for McKenzie, the US consultants and wheeler dealers, then left (following a well trodden path) to start his own businesses in ‘distribution’. His election address says he drove the delivery van himself at the beginning, but don’t be fooled: he’s a money man through and through. He sold the business in no time at all and must now be a (multi?) millionaire. Then he went on to become a co-founder and partner in Pluto Finance, a business that lends to developers of luxury apartments. Their most prominent investment in the UK is a 36 apartment development in West Hampstead in which a one bedroom apartment sell for £0.5 million, two bedrooms for £0.7 million. Just what the UK housing crisis needs!

So much for the man. What about the policies Mr Philip is putting before his electors? He would like to take credit for the new A&E unit in Croydon University Hospital, ignoring the fact that it has been failing due to Tory cuts. He brags about the government having created 1.8 million new jobs but doesn’t mention zero hours contracts and job insecurity. But then even the Labour Party doesn’t these days mention the best form of job security, strong trade unions. He says he wants to protect the NHS while ignoring the fact that his government is responsible for its current parlous state. Most ludicrous of all, he would like to “hold Southern Rail to account” for its “terrible performance”. it doesn’t need holding to account, it needs to be stripped of its franchise and for the service to be re-nationalised.

Unfortunately, we are going to have to get used to Mr Philip and his foibles. It’s said that the voters of Croydon South will vote for anyone provided he (and it usually is he) wears a blue rosette. Provided Mr Philip can avoid the slip ups that tend to beset Tory MPs in safe seats, he’s likely to be around for a long time.