Affordable Homes Bill

Here’s a copy of an email I sent to residents yesterday, who contacted me regarding the Affordable Homes Bill:

Thank you for your email with regards to the Affordable Homes Bill, put forward by my Lib Dem colleague Andrew George MP.

I will be voting in favour of this Bill tomorrow.

Under-occupancy is a serious problem across the country, caused by a loss of 1.5 million council homes by successive Labour and Tory governments.

Since 2010, the Lib Dems have been working to reverse this decline, overseeing the construction of 170,000 new social and affordable homes.

To tackle the under occupancy issue, the last Labour government introduced a Housing Benefit reduction (or ‘bedroom tax’) for those with a spare bedroom in the private rented sector, which was then matched in 2013 for those in social housing.

My Lib Dem colleagues and I argued for significant changes to make the new policy fairer – and we secured a £25 million fund for Discretionary Housing Payments, £5 million for foster carers, and exemptions for the elderly.

But we want to go further, which is why we are supporting Andrew George’s Bill that will change the rules to protect the most vulnerable in society.

The Bill is made of two parts – one is to secure a review of affordable housing by the Secretary of State, and the other would provide three new exemptions to spare bedroom rules.

Proposals mean that there will be no change to a person’s Housing Benefit if:

1)      A property has been adapted for a disabled claimant, their partner, or a close relative living with them.

2)      The DLA/PIP claimant, their partner, or a close relative living with them has a disability which prevents them from sharing a room.

3)      The Local Authority or Housing Association has not made a ‘reasonable offer of alternative accommodation’

This will make the system significantly fairer, which is why I am very pleased to support the Bill tomorrow.


Housing matters!

Labour-run Haringey Council has not built any council housing for 25 years. Unforgivable!

So much of my casework is to do with housing. There isn’t nearly enough and people stay on Haringey’s housing list for years – living in overcrowded and sometimes absolutely terrible conditions.

It is not unusual for people to come to me in desperation over their living conditions to ask me to help get them moved. So often it is the parents worried about the children having to sleep several to a room and no place for a child to do homework or study – and years are spent in temporary accommodation just waiting and waiting for a home.

My Liberal Democrat council colleagues have committed in their manifesto to build the first new council homes in Haringey for 25 years. When Labour Haringey published its manifesto for these local elections (after the Liberal Democrat manifesto had been published of course) lo and behold – suddenly – Labour are promising to build houses.

Given they have been in power in Haringey for decades and haven’t built any council housing – not sure local people will believe this leopard is changing its spots!

There’s only one way to be sure – back the local Liberal Democrat team on Thursday with our consistent record of campaigning to tackle Haringey’s housing shortage.

Meeting with Haringey Housing Chiefs to demand vital repairs

Lynne Featherstone MP and Cllr Richard Wilson last week met with Haringey Council and Homes for Haringey to request that vital repairs are made to the Noel Park estate in Wood Green.

Last year, Labour-run Haringey Council announced that no ‘Decent Homes’ repair work would be made to the entire Noel Park Estate – despite previous promises to complete the work, and despite receiving an extra £25million grant from the Coalition Government.

This prompted outrage from residents, local MP Lynne Featherstone and the Haringey Liberal Democrats – who have since been robustly campaigning for the Decent Homes work (which includes fitting new kitchens, bathrooms and other repairs) to take place as scheduled.

At the meeting, the Council representatives committed to make urgent repairs to properties if necessary, and to consult with residents of the estate about the more extensive Decent Homes work.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“Many homes on the Noel Park estate are in urgent need of repair and modernisation, and residents have been promised just that for years. Noel Park should be a priority, but instead the Labour-run Council is turning their backs on residents.

“It’s Haringey Council’s job to provide tenants with a decent standard of living – and the Government has given the Council extra money to do so.

“It’s no wonder residents are so outraged by the cancellation of the work – particularly following revelations that the Labour-run Council allowed £3.7million to be dished out on bonuses for repairs staff!

“The Council have committed to make urgent repairs and consult residents – which is a step in the right direction but not good enough. The local Noel Park Lib Dem team and I will keep campaigning for full repairs for residents on the Noel Park estate.”

Sign the petition for money to be spend on homes, rather than on bonuses for failure, here.

Taking part in local school project on homelessness

Lynne Featherstone MP with students at Greig City AcademyLynne Featherstone MP last week visited Greig City Academy in Hornsey, to take part in a student’s citizenship project on homelessness.

Along with a volunteer from the Haringey Winter Shelter, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green participated in a discussion with a group of year 11 students about how to raise awareness of homelessness.

The group also discussed the help available to young people affected by homelessness.

The Coalition Government has invested over £470 million to tackle homelessness, with the bulk of this being spent on homeless prevention funding.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“I was very glad to see young students tackling the subject of homelessness. The issue should be on the agenda – not pushed to one side and forgotten.

“There are so many wonderful charities and soup kitchens helping homeless people on a daily basis. And the Government is helping, too, with £470 million of funding being used to try and prevent homelessness.

“£3.5 million has been used to extend the ‘No Second Night Out’ programme beyond the London pilot to eight new areas – and only two out of 683 people being helped by the scheme in Merseyside have returned to the streets since February 2012.”

More homes – not bonuses for failure

Here’s an email I sent to residents last week about housing in Haringey. Please do add your name to our petition, if you’d rather Labour-run Haringey Council spent money on houses, rather than bonuses for failure.

Haringey housing bonsues  to be probedLabour simply can’t be trusted to run Haringey Council properly. They haven’t built a single new home in almost 25 years, despite over 10,000 local families waiting on the list for social housing.

The local Lib Dems and I are petitioning the Labour-run Council to spend more money on homes, rather than on bonuses for failure. You can add your signature here.

There is some good news, though. Following a local Liberal Democrat campaign, Haringey Council have finally agreed to build 100 new council homes.

Haringey Lib Dem leader and housing spokesperson, Cllr Richard Wilson, first suggested the idea back in February, when it was rejected by local Labour Councillors. Now, finally, it is going to happen.

It certainly won’t make up for the 25 years of neglect, but it’s a sensible first step. The project will also create local construction jobs, assist the economic recovery and help those in need.

If the Haringey Lib Dems were in charge of Haringey Council – the project would have started much sooner!

But until the Lib Dems are in charge, please do support our petition, calling on the Labour-run Council to spend their money on homes, rather than on bonuses for failure.

Housing Help for Haringey

Here’s my latest Muswell Flyer article on housing in Haringey. You can read this article and previous articles online here.

Many years ago, I got a mortgage for my first flat (off the Archway Road) – which enabled me to get a first foot on the property ladder. Social housing for those in need was also relatively easy to come by.

The same certainly cannot be said in Haringey today. Unfortunately, housing here is a huge problem – particularly for those on the Council waiting list, those already in social housing, and young professionals and families struggling to save a deposit for a first home.

The waiting list for social housing has over 10,000 families on it. There are simply too many people in need and not enough houses available.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, Margaret Thatcher’s policy of selling off council homes without reinvestment in replacement housing; and secondly, Haringey Council not building any new homes in 25 years.

There are also problems with the quality of social housing. I think social housing should be attractive and built to last – not neglected and run-down. Yet, every week, I am contacted by residents who desperately need repair and maintenance work, and are just not getting it.

There are serious problems with Labour-run Haringey’s housing arm – Homes for Haringey. News recently broke that staff claimed over £3.7million in bonuses in less than two years. This was just shocking – this was public money which could have gone towards refurbishing 300 local homes.

It’s this type of behaviour that the local Lib Dems are fighting against in the local elections next year, as they attempt to take control of Haringey Council from Labour.

In the private rental sector – there are also young people and families unable to save for a deposit to buy their first home due to high rents. And with rents and property prices on the rise, it can be daunting and difficult for first time buyers.

So, with the lack of building, bonus scandals and wastefulness, and rising property prices, people in Haringey are up against it.

But it’s not all bad news.

The Coalition Government has introduced measures to ease the crisis. The new Help to Buy scheme is giving young people the chance to get on the property ladder – by offering them new homes if they have a 5% deposit. The rest of the deposit will be covered by a Government loan.

Council tenants are still able to buy their homes – but now, Councils must reinvest the money in social housing, to ensure we have a rolling stock.

The Lib Dems in Government have also delivered more affordable housing and succeeded in bringing empty homes back into use. We’ve also given Councils extra money towards decent homes work – to improve the quality of social housing.

And we are starting to see some changes. Housing supply is now at its highest since the end of the unsustainable housing boom in 2008, with 334,000 new homes built over the last three years. The number of first-time buyers is also at a five-year high!

Buildings, not bonuses

Here’s my latest Ham and High Column, also available on Lib Dem Voice.

Social housing in Haringey is in high demand. There are currently over 10,000 individuals and families stuck on the waiting list – and many will not have the chance to bid for a property in the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, people are often in cramped conditions in the private sector, or waiting in low quality ‘temporary’ accommodation. This has a detrimental effect on both the children and adults in these situations.

And once families are given social housing in Haringey, it’s not always plain sailing. Every week, my office receives dozens of letters and emails from residents, distressed by the state of their homes.

My constituents have suffered leaks, boiler breakdowns and damp – and often they are left for months without receiving proper repairs.

This is unacceptable; and we’re in the midst of a social housing crisis in Haringey. Anyone with common sense will know that more homes need to be built, and that Haringey Council need to improve their services to current tenants.

But our local Council aren’t known for their common sense.

Labour-run Haringey Council haven’t built any new homes in 25 years. And 25 years ago, they built 7. Finances may be tight now – but what on earth were they doing during the Blair and Brown years, when they had more money than they knew what to do with?

Instead of investing in new housing stock – they wasted their money and let the waiting list grow longer and longer.

And the culture of waste at Haringey Council continues, despite the tough economic times.

News recently broke that staff at Homes for Haringey – Haringey Council’s Housing department – claimed over £3.7million in bonuses in the last two years (2011-13).

It’s frankly sickening that this was allowed to happen, especially at the same time as they cancelled Decent Homes repair work on hundreds of local houses due to a ‘lack of money.’

To put this in context – £3.7 million could have gone towards refurbishing 300 local homes. That’s the size of the entire Sandlings estate. Instead, Haringey Labour allowed it to be spent on undeserved bonuses, and then had the audacity to blame Government cuts for the cancelled repairs.

The Coalition Government are aware of the problems faced by boroughs like Haringey. The Government have recently provided Haringey Council with extra funding, so that repair work can still go ahead in some areas where they had been cancelled.

And now, when Council tenants wish to buy their homes, local Councils must reinvest the money in social housing (rather than wasting it elsewhere), to ensure we have a rolling supply of housing.

The Coalition’s new Help to Buy scheme is also giving assistance to first time buyers, particularly those buying new build properties. This is stimulating building of new homes whilst also easing pressure on the private rental sector.

These measures are going some way to righting the wrongs of previous Governments, and easing the housing crisis. I will be keeping a close eye on the situation in Haringey and fighting for extra help and investment wherever possible.