Government's poor record on housing

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16 December 2015

Smiles Yesterday saw an Opposition Day debate on the government's poor record on housing. The debate was very well attended, and therefore not everyone who wanted to speak was able to.

Siobhain's speech on housing is copied below:

'Thank you Mr Speaker / Madam Deputy Speaker / Mr Deputy Speaker.

I have been calling out the government on its abysmal housing record for years now. Having worked in housing for a decade and a half before representing the good people of Mitcham and Morden, I know all too well the suffering and homelessness caused by a broken housing market.

But I have never seen our housing situation in such a terrible state as it is today.

Our social housing stock continues to decline quickly, while affordable properties to rent privately are few and far between. Indeed, in my constituency, the cost of private rent has increased by 22 per cent in just the last few years.

And there are a staggering 8,200 residents on Merton’s housing register, some waiting desperately for years in temporary accommodation to be rehoused.

On top of this, the government continues to fail on affordable housing for first-time buyers. Not only are the so-called ‘New Starter’ homes available only to those who command considerable wages of £77,000 in London.

As our excellent Mayoral candidate has said last week, the government has allowed the sale of thousands of new-build London homes to overseas investors in China, Hong Kong, and the UAE, among many others. Indeed, since Boris Johnson has been Mayor, investors have bought at least £100 billion of property in the capital using overseas companies.

This has had a knock-on effect in Mitcham and Morden too. One constituent contacted me to report that his daughter, who was looking for a property, found 32 people trying to purchase the same property on the same morning. His daughter and her boyfriend were standing next to a representative of a Chinese bank which was looking to invest. That couple were in no position to compete with that international money.

At the same time, buy-to-let mortgage tax reliefs are a taxpayer-funded subsidy which prioritises properties for private rent, encouraging the monopolisation of housing stock, at a time when so many working people cannot afford to rent or buy.

Instead, taxpayers’ money should be used to help people get on the housing ladder, not pull the rug from under their feet. Housing should not be a lucrative financial investment, but rather a place for families to live with financial stability, and put down roots in their local community.

To tackle seriously the root causes of the housing crisis in this country we have to go further. Only by solving the housing crisis will we stand any chance of bringing down the housing benefit bill in a fair way.

However, cutting mortgage interest tax breaks by more than the government’s very conservative amount, or limiting them to new builds, could save up to £6bn. This equates to grants to housing associations that could enable them to build 100,000 new social homes.

Spending this money on building new houses will also help stimulate the economy and provide jobs. For every £1 spent on housing construction, an additional £2.09 of economic output is generated.

The government’s choice on housing is clear. Let’s home it makes the right one.'