The final manifesto we're looking at for Vote Homes is UKIP's Peter Whittle's. Like all the other candidates, Peter recognises that housing is the biggest challenge facing London. But unlike the other candidates, he sees the cause as excess demand, rather than a shortage of supply.
In his manifesto, he does promise to build “genuinely affordable homes”, which would be an improvement, and use GLA-owned land to build them, which we support. But he has no target, or details of what they would cost the people living in them. He would, however, restrict these new homes to people who have lived in London for at least five years, putting a condition on foreign nationals that they pay UK tax for the same period.
Now, Generation Rent is a pretty inclusive organisation. We want to improve the housing situation for all renters regardless of their origin. This is particularly pertinent in London, where a large number of private renters aren’t Londoners by birth, and one of the city’s assets is the fact that anyone has been able come here to work. We want renters treated equally, whether they’re from Poland, Plymouth, or Penge. And you can’t stifle one of the city’s unique advantages – diversity – in order to tackle one of its disadvantages – housing costs. Unfortunately a sustainable solution isn’t as simple as UKIP might like to think.
The whole Londoners-first policy won’t make a big impact on affordability for those who qualify anyway. Foreign nationals are already less likely to live in social housing (12%) than UK citizens (17%). More than half are private renters. 94% of social housing is occupied by UK citizens. The only problem with social housing allocation is that there isn’t enough of it.
And an exclusionary policy on allocations could easily create more harm, for example by preventing foreign-born nurses accessing housing they can afford, or stopping a young man who was born abroad but grew up in London from finding stable accommodation, or forcing a British baby born to a foreign mother into unfit private rented housing.
So we’re not impressed with Peter’s caveat on affordable housing for a number of reasons. He’s using the same basis to restrict Help to Buy to first-time buyers. We’d like to see the whole thing scrapped, so we can’t award more than a red.
Seeing the crisis as a problem of demand, not supply, means that Peter can quite easily oppose building on the green belt and high-rise buildings. He can also set his sights low on raising cash to invest: he would double council tax on empty homes, which, assuming there are 22,000 eligible properties with average council tax of £1300, would raise only £28.6m. We do like the principle of this so we’ll award an amber.
Peter, as a private renter himself, has very little to say about the private rented sector. He’ll only stick his neck out to reject rent caps and the registration of landlords.