Every day my office is contacted by families living in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions. I also get regular complaints about unauthorised development extensions and "beds in sheds" in back gardens. Local authorities throughout London face impossible pressures caused by a growing population, the lowest level of new housing starts since the 1920's, rocketing house prices and private rents. The Office of National Statistics says house prices are at record levels and the average property in London is now £437,000. In 1997, it took the average family 3 years to save for a deposit. Now it takes over 20 years and average house prices are 8 times the average wage.
Home ownership has fallen for the first time in a century. There are now 9 million people in private rented accommodation, spending an average 41% of their income on rent, and often worrying if they'll still be in the same home next year when their tenancy ends. The social housing supply in Redbridge is the second lowest of any local authority in London. I recently visited a local hostel to see for myself the conditions for families placed in temporary accommodation by the council.
The governments ‘help to buy’ scheme will only compound the problem by increasing demand and house prices but not addressing the chronic shortage of affordable housing. We need at least 200,000 new homes a year, and modernisation of our green belt planning strait jacket to enable development of a series of modern new towns and garden cities to take pressure off already overcrowded London boroughs.