Monday, November 27, 2006

The Council can manage Housing, Only Gov can fix it

As a Liberal I welcome diversity. And Islington is one of the most diverse places in London, possibly the world. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

As the Guardian reminded us last Friday,,1955770,00.html the rising cost of private housing and the shortages of social housing mean there is a real divide opening up in the borough. On current trends only richer and richer people can afford to move in to new private homes (although the costs of mortgages mean that they get considerably poorer). Meanwhile the point system run by Islington Council rightly rewards those most in need, those furthest away from the average. So Islington gets more 'diverse' - read 'divided'.

This is exacerbated by the refusal of successive Governments (Tory and Labour) to fund renewed Council house building. Those that do go up are usually the end result of developers being forced by the Council to build them as part of planning permission (now expected to be 50% of new units for developments over 10-units large).

All this means that the Islington I grew up in - with lots of people "in the middle" - is increasingly far away. And this is true all across London - the net effect of being a key hub in the global economy (with huge increases in the numbers of wealthy people from all over the world attracted to the City), strong limits on housing development and poor transport links (which mean that everyone wants to live as close to the centre as possible).

The Council does what it can. According to Terry Stacy, responsible for housing on the Council, there is no one in temporary accomodation and key public sector workers are OK. Although the Council point system rewards those who grew up here it is only a way of rationing what there is a shortage of: housing. We still have 13,000 people on the waiting list for better accomodation. And only the Government has the financial clout to deal with that.

I am lucky, I can afford to remain in Islington. Many others who grew up here cannot - and that is not good enough. Islington needs a Liberal MP who will fight for proper Government investment in new housing stock. And a little less diversity.

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