Published: 3 August, 2012
by CAROLINE ALLEN
IN Islington, as across London, there is a housing crisis.
After years of boom, housing is one of the biggest issues that divide people across Islington into haves and have-nots, creating inequality that is to the detriment of us all.
Research by Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson recently showed you need to be earning a household income of £72,000 to be able to affordably rent a two-bedroom flat in Islington – an amount more than double the average London wage.
It’s no surprise that homelessness is rising.
So it’s perfectly natural that people are calling for more homes to be built. But, as Islington is already the most densely populated borough in London, extra housing could put a strain on amenities as well as cause conflicts about where it should be placed; something we have seen recently on the Holly Park estate.
We must ensure this much-needed housing meets the needs of the borough and genuinely helps people get out of poor-quality and overcrowded housing.
Affordable housing has become a buzz word, a way of smoothing opposition to new developments, but it’s surprisingly difficult to pin down what affordable actually means.
It includes social and intermediate housing. Islington Council is creating some new homes for social rent, but intermediate housing is a whole other issue.
Take the case of the Loxfords development, built on the old NCH site in Highbury.
Greens worked with residents as we were concerned that precious greenspace was being lost in creating a development that would do little to tackle the housing crisis.
The Labour council said we shouldn’t be opposed because it claimed to be creating 45 per cent affordable housing.
It’s great that there are properties for social rent, but some so-called affordable intermediate housing has a price tag of more than half a million pounds.
It is the Mayor of London who has ultimate responsibility for this, but search through housing strategy documents and what is considered affordable is still far from clear.
Earn less than £60,000 for one to two beds and up to £74,000 for three bedrooms and you are eligible for intermediate schemes (aka part-rent, part-buy). These are high incomes, well above the Islington average.
But once you’ve paid your mortgage, rent on the part you don’t own and high service charges, the three-bed properties available at the Loxfords cost £1,748 a month, which by any sensible calculation is actually unaffordable.
Housing in Islington is not an issue that can be solved quickly, the legacy of this and the last Labour government will take years to put right.
In the meantime I don’t think it’s too much to ask of developers, the Mayor and the council: please be straight with us at the planning stage?
How much are your “affordable” properties actually going to cost and are they really affordable to first-time buyers or do they risk trapping them with high rents and service charges over which they have no control?
• Caroline Allen is an Islington-based campaigner and candidate for the Green Party’s deputy leadership.