What’s happening to housing in Ealing and Acton? Like the rest of the country, house prices have been falling, which is a mixed blessing, depending on whether you are trying to get in or out of the market. But given the credit squeeze and the fact that prices are only back to December 2006 levels, there is, in practice, little opportunity for those on low or average incomes to buy. Which makes the subsidised housing market more important in west London than almost anywhere else in the country. Yet the Mayor, council and some housing associations are doing little to help families or single people.
I have seen many people – including couples with both partners working – in my advice surgeries who have tried every new development of so-called affordable homes to buy only to find none is affordable to them. Now the days of 125 per cent mortgages are – thankfully – over, it is clear that social landlords have not been fulfilling their statutory duties in providing housing for those in need. Consequently, some developments remain empty while council waiting lists are at their longest in living memory.
In some cases this is more than incompetence and neglect – it is deliberate policy. Boris Johnson has declared himself against the quotas for affordable housing that Ken Livingstone demanded from local councils. He has gone on to allow developments with no affordable housing. West London Citizens commissioned a report on housing affordability that showed the only housing option for those earning the London living wage (now £7.60 an hour) or below was social rented housing, but Tory policy now wishes to reduce this as a housing option and provide it only to meet temporary or emergency needs.
This may account for Ealing Council’s poor record on serving its existing tenants. Whether it is regeneration projects, like the redevelopment of the South Acton Estate, or spending £300 million of Decent Homes money, the Government has provided to improve council properties, they have failed to deliver.
It is a tragedy that, at a time when the Government has committed itself to the largest housing investment programme for a generation, local providers are shirking their role to deliver affordable homes.