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A while ago I 'took action' as part of the Homes for Britain campaign I saw floating around twitter (and is still ongoing). In short, it assisted you in contacting your current MP and candidates for the seat at the next election (where known). There was a form letter and a space for you to add your comments, in which I let rip with both HPC barrels.

I did it about 3 or 4 months ago and had completely forgotten about it. So I was rather surprised to find a letter from my MP (Heidi Alexander, LAB) on my doormat when I got home from work today. She'd replied to my letter.

After explaining her reply had been delayed by some sort of admin cockup she proceeded to agree with me and promised to do everything in her power to fix the situation. Then by way of evidence she included a part transcript of a debate she took part in, which I'll include at the end of this post (with bolding for the tl;drs out there).

A few days ago I was rather down in the dumps what with having to move due to landlord selling, dealing with crappy EA's doing the selling, prices continuing to shoot up, not seeing evidence of a crash on the rightmove reduction stats etc. etc. and was pondering an epic mortgage as the only way out (taking the blue pill). Today I've had (via HPC) the Paul Hodges interview and now this letter and am feeling rather happier about things. Might even have changed how I would have voted in the recent 'more likely to buy?' poll :).

I don't like Labour, but as I'm prepared to vote purely on housing issues (well, to a point - I'm not going to vote BNP!) maybe I'll vote for Heidi (although she is advocating more government debt - I don't care at this point).

source

Housing in London Debate (Westminster Hall – 5th February 2014)

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to participate in this debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) on securing it. I am afraid that I cannot stay for the whole debate because I am chairing a
meeting at 10.30 am, so I will miss the contributions from the Minister and, sadly, from our Front-Bench spokeswoman, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds).
When I sat down yesterday to think about what I might say in this debate, I realised that I have made a similar speech in each of the years I have been a Member of Parliament. I make no apology for that, because the housing crisis in London has a direct impact on my
constituents. For many of them, that impact is devastating for their lives and those of their families.
The housing crisis in London is of long standing, but I believe it has been made worse by the policies of the Tory-Liberal Government. If the crisis is not addressed, it will continue to cause misery and unhappiness for many. It will damage our economic competitiveness and place enormous strain on our already overstretched transport system, as the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) has said.
Some may think of London’s housing crisis as a problem that affects only certain people—perhaps those on a particular income or of a particular age—but nothing could be further from the truth. With rocketing house prices and sky-high rents, London’s housing crisis is as much about the young professional couple in their 30s who are unable to buy their first home as about the family of five who rent an overcrowded flat from a slum landlord. The housing crisis is as much about the nurse or the firefighter who cannot afford a shared ownership property as it is about the rough sleeper who can find shelter only in a disused garage or on a bench in a railway station.
Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): The issue affects all of us across London. I do not know whether I have yet shared with my hon. Friend the story of a firefighter and a midwife whom I met, who lived in overcrowded conditions and wanted to
part-buy. When I looked into where they might get a part-ownership property, I realised that the only place they could afford to buy was somewhere out near Redbridge, and only after she had qualified as a midwife. Affordable housing in central London is social housing, in my view. Does my hon. Friend agree?
Heidi Alexander: I do. In my experience, it is especially difficult for people with families who are trying to buy a two or three-bedroom shared-ownership property. They have to be earning in the region of £40,000 a year before they can access such properties.
Nadine Dorries: Many moons ago—some in this room may not even have been born—in 1978, as a newly qualified nurse on a newly qualified nurse’s salary, I was able to buy my own home independently without a partner. Compare that with today, when there is
absolutely no possibility of a newly qualified nurse buying a home in London.
Heidi Alexander: I have met nurses in my constituency who might be able to afford to buy a flat elsewhere in the country, but in London that is simply impossible. I have not dreamt up the nurse, the rough sleeper on a bench in a railway station or the others whom I have
described; they are real people whom I have met and spoken to in the past few years. I am not surprised when I read that 82% of Londoners think that the capital is in the grip of a full-scale housing crisis, or that 27% believe the affordability of housing to be the most important issue facing the capital, because I hear the same thing week in, week out.
One of the most common conversations that I have at my fortnightly advice surgeries is about the huge mismatch between the demand for and the supply of affordable homes in London. I see family after family living in overcrowded conditions who want to move to a
suitably sized property at a rent that they can afford. I say “rent”, because the idea of buying a home is completely out of reach for many. Someone on a minimum-wage job lucky enough to be working full time—that is quite a big assumption—earns less than £12,000 a year. The idea that there is any property in London that they could afford to buy is laughable. The truth is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Thamesmead said, that if I had not been in the fortunate position of buying a home with my husband, many parts of my constituency—that is Lewisham, not Kensington or Chelsea—would be unaffordable for me as an MP on a salary of £68,000. I do not say that to plead poverty; I recognise that I am very well off. However, my situation demonstrates that the housing market in London is such that people in many different walks of life cannot afford the modest home that they would like.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): My hon. Friend says that there are parts of Lewisham that she cannot afford on an MP’s salary. Is she aware that there is nowhere at all in Hackney where I afford to buy a property on an MP’s salary?
Heidi Alexander: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I am quite lucky that my husband and I bought a terraced house in Lewisham a few years ago, because if we were buying today, I am not so sure that we could afford it. House prices have gone crazy. The Government are stoking up demand with their Help to Buy scheme, but they are simply not doing enough to increase supply. The result is a potentially massive housing bubble. With fewer and fewer people able to buy, more people end up living in properties in the private rented sector, even when that would not be their first choice. There is increased demand at both ends of the private rented market, because people are not buying and homes to rent from councils and housing associations are so few and far between. The rents of thousands of working people in London, many of whom rent from private landlords, are subsidised through housing benefit.
Since 2009, the number of people working in London and receiving support from housing benefit has increased by 110%. That has happened on the Government’s watch. Ministers claim that they want to reduce the housing benefit bill, but unless they invest in building significant numbers of homes to be rented at social rents—not so-called affordable rents— that bill will continue to rise.
What needs to change? First, money must be made available in the form of capital grants. The Government’s decision in 2010 to slash the affordable house building programme by 63% was just plain wrong. Housing associations need finance to deliver homes. Councils
must be given greater borrowing powers so that they, too, can once again build on a reasonable scale. We must lift the cap on borrowing on the housing revenue account. I know that the Government have made minor changes, but they do not go far enough.
London councils estimate that if the cap was lifted, 14,000 extra homes could be built by 2021. We should also explore the idea of setting up a London housing corporation to build homes directly, as suggested this week by Labour London assembly member Tom Copley. The simple truth is that we need to invest now to save on revenue costs in the longer term. Taxpayers’ money is being used to line the pockets of London’s private landlords on a massive scale. That cannot be right, and the solution is to build more social housing. Secondly, we must take a more strategic approach to public land. Londoners know only too well that the shape of their public services is changing. Fire stations are closing, changes have been proposed to police stations, and virtually every hospital faces some form of reconfiguration. Such buildings and the land that they sit on are precious public assets and should not be flogged off to the highest bidder simply to end up as expensive flats for overseas investors to leave empty. When there is such housing need in the capital, that is scandalous and should not be allowed to happen.
Thirdly, we must take some difficult decisions about our planning policy, in both London and the areas around it. Do we build up or out? How can we finance comprehensive regeneration schemes on brownfield sites in London? How do we ensure maximum benefit
to existing communities? Politicians at all levels have a role to play. If we are to deliver the homes that London needs, there will controversial planning applications time and again. Politicians are going to have to step up to the mark and argue the case as to why something is the right thing to do. It is notable that recent figures from the House of Commons Library show that Labour-run councils in London have built five times as many affordable homes as Tory councils.
Councils need proper powers to deal with developers who sit on land waiting for house prices to rise, and they need to be able to negotiate hard with developers about social rented housing provision. That comes back to my first point: financing mechanisms must be put in place for social housing to be delivered. I do not pretend that solving London’s housing crisis is easy, but we must understand the scale of the challenge and act now to do something about it. I do not want to be stood here in five years’ time making the same speech again. If we have a Labour Government after 2015, I believe that they will be committed to doing something about the situation; I am afraid that the present Government do not fill me with the same optimism.
Edited by SE10

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Fair play to your MP. Seems like one of the honest few.

This is scandalous.

Since 2009, the number of people working in London and receiving support from housing benefit has increased by 110%

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Thank you, as silver surfer says, credit to yourself and the MPs involved.

I'm still not entirely comfortable with her suggesting shared ownership is actually useful, but its nice to hear her saying all of this.

It would be great if she offered a real solution rather than "build more", too. But as I say in the age of landlord MPs this is a bit of a treat!

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I think it really is time to be honest and accept there never will be 'affordable housing' for the majority of people.

In Keswick in Cumbria where I live in my campervan, the local social housing provider ' Your Derwent and Solway' housing association, have just built 69, 1 and 2 bed flats for the over 55's (affordable housing) :-

1 bed flat £275,000 plus £100 per week service charge

2 bed flat £300,000 plus £100 per week service charge

50% shared ownership £137,500/150,000 plus £85 rent per week, plus £100 service charge per week.

The average wage in Keswick is £13000 to 14000 a year mainly hotel and shop jobs, the site they used to build these 'affordable flats', was local authority housings with tenants paying affordable rents, but housing association kicked them all out, knocked the place down and have build housing that only the rich can afford.

I have lived in Keswick for 16 years I used to be able to afford to rent a flat but not anymore - that is why I now live in my van, there has been a massive rise in people living in cars and vans in the town, because they can no longer afford the rents - working people.

I do not think it matters who gets in to power in May, because I believe the housing situation will only get worse not better.

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In Keswick in Cumbria where I live in my campervan, the local social housing provider ' Your Derwent and Solway' housing association, have just built 69, 1 and 2 bed flats for the over 55's (affordable housing) :-

1 bed flat £275,000 plus £100 per week service charge

2 bed flat £300,000 plus £100 per week service charge

£100 per week service charge! I assume there's a concierge, gym and swimming pool there? Cos that's what might go some way to justify that level of cost and is of course, what all affordable housing needs as a bare minimum... :rolleyes:

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Thank you, as silver surfer says, credit to yourself and the MPs involved.

I'm still not entirely comfortable with her suggesting shared ownership is actually useful, but its nice to hear her saying all of this.

It would be great if she offered a real solution rather than "build more", too. But as I say in the age of landlord MPs this is a bit of a treat!

Fair point on the drawbacks of shared ownership. I wasn't quite sure if she was saying "people on 40k can't even buy with shared ownership, that's how mental things have gotten" or "once people on 40k can buy with shared ownership we've solved the problem and it's triples all round."

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I can;t help but be cynical and think she is looking for a vote.

Diane Abbott can afford to put her kid in private school and has to be one of the most self serving politicians in Britain.

She was only this week backing down on the Mansion Tax, a true Blairite socialist if ever there was one.

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Write her another letter protesting a housing development, say it will ruin your view.

See what her response is. If she passes the test, then fair play. If she says 'promised to do everything in my power to stop the development' then you'll know she's a duplicitous shit who lies for money like the rest of them.

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Some interesting points in the debate but similar points have been made by them countless times over the years and little or nothing really changes - even when NuLabour had the chance - quite the opposite in fact. The other lots are no different.

Of course it's worse than ever now in no small part due to Labour as well as the Conservatives and LibDems.

It was also interesting that the only examples of hardship seemed to be public sector workers as if the private sector doesn't exist. It wouldn't have been too much to ask for a mention of some private sector workers as they do have a contribution to make as well.

Believe what any of the parties have to say on housing/house prices (or anything else for that matter) in the approach to the general election at one's own risk.

Edited by billybong

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Write her another letter protesting a housing development, say it will ruin your view.

See what her response is. If she passes the test, then fair play. If she says 'promised to do everything in my power to stop the development' then you'll know she's a duplicitous shit who lies for money like the rest of them.

:lol:

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£100 per week service charge is for maintenance, no gym or swimming pool

"Over 55s" in this context is a euphemism for "old and decrepit and in need of at least warden support to hand". The service charge will be what pays for having warden support and nursing staff on call 24 hours.

Someone independent like my 89-year-old dad is still too young for a place like that.

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Write her another letter protesting a housing development, say it will ruin your view.

See what her response is. If she passes the test, then fair play. If she says 'promised to do everything in my power to stop the development' then you'll know she's a duplicitous shit who lies for money like the rest of them.

You have to do better than that. Complaining about your view will stick out as exactly what it is: an HPCer complaint to test her duplicitousness.

You have to be convincing: you really mean it, and you've thought the subject through. To look realistic you need a bunch of compelling points, along the lines of ...

* There are not adequate proposals for infrastructure, and the sewage works are already overloaded and causing a stink.

* The land is essential both as an oasis for wildlife, but also for rainwater, and [reputable study] has shown that concreting it over poses a serious flood risk to adjoining areas.

... etc

You could perhaps get that by attending a nimby meeting, keeping quiet, but noting what points come up.

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Write her another letter protesting a housing development, say it will ruin your view.

See what her response is. If she passes the test, then fair play. If she says 'promised to do everything in my power to stop the development' then you'll know she's a duplicitous shit who lies for money like the rest of them.

Great idea. Are you Henry Root?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoax_letter_writers

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One way to get more housing available to the populace (which would be much quicker than building more housing) would be to slap council tax on empty properties (all those new-build flats sold to overseas buyers) and also get some new council tax bands for the more expensive properties. This could be done quickly and cheaply (relatively) and would stop all the endless hand-wringing in parliament where no-one actually does anything. Boris could instigate this London-wide if he wanted to. Prices to buy and to rent are high at the moment but increase the supply and sure as eggs are eggs prices would fall considerably.

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Out of nowhere, I've had another reply - this time from the LibDem candidate, Julia Fletcher. She says:

I am happy to confirm that the Homes for Britain campaign has my full support. Housing is a really important issue for our area. We need more housing and more affordable housing in particular. We also need to ensure high standards in the private rented sector.

If elected I would do my very best to achieve these aims.

However I won't be able to vote for her, as due to landlord selling where I'm renting I'm moving boroughs (where I will of course, do the same thing with all the candidates).

Interestingly, this does sort of line up with what I noticed when watching the Generation Rent hustings, which was the Tories didn't care, Labour and Lib Dems said they did, and the Greens also said they did but didn't want to hurt any blades of grass in the process of doing something about it.

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