Blogspot: “Halfon’s Hypocrisy on Affordable Housing”

Politics / Sat 9th Sep 2017 at 04:20pm

Church 2

Halfon’s Hypocrisy on Affordable Housing

By Jake Shepherd

OUR MP’s outcry over affordable housing, recently picked up by local press, has struck many people as hypocritical. Whilst Robert Halfon MP and Cllr Joel Charles appear to be relishing the opportunity to scrutinize the revised planning application for the Churchgate Street development, they seem to have entirely forgotten the role their party has consistently effective played in worsening the housing crisis for my generation.

An out of touch Conservative government has run amok; having paralysed the efforts of local authorities to build social housing, they instead favour the paradoxical phrase “affordable housing”, which has come to mean anything but. This government-backed myth means that rent for social housing is higher than ever before, set at up to 80% of the local market rent. Yet housing charity Shelter says that affordable housing should cost no more than 35% of your household income after tax and benefits. This mismatch goes to show how out of touch the Conservative party are when it comes to the addressing the housing needs of my generation.

Coupled with the Conservatives’ attack on social welfare, rule changes stealthily passed through the back door so to avoid the scrutiny of MPs have meant that since the 1st of April 2017, for all but a handful of circumstances, 18-21 year olds can no longer claim for housing benefit. A party which refuses to assist young people with the rising cost of rent continually play a role in the rise of youth homelessness.

Closer to home, Harlow Council work as hard as they can to ensure that there is as much affordable housing as possible, but central government has paralysed local authorities by stopping them from borrowing money to build homes. In the case of the Churchgate Street development, the onsite social housing originally offered would have needed to be managed by a housing association, and the ill-thought policy of forcing housing associations on the right to buy scheme, means that none are interested. The revised planning application means that an off-site financial contribution, which could fund future housing for the town, is being offered instead.

The council’s record on rightly refusing planning permission to developers who neglect their moral responsibility to supply social housing, symbolizes both a commitment to future generations and to the ethos of New Towns. As we saw last year when Circle Housing (now Clarion Housing) were forced to appeal the council’s decision against their development, which caused The Square to close.

You’d be right to ask why there was no outcry from Robert Halfon and Joel Charles back then. I was there in May at the St Paul’s hustings, just before the election, when our MP spoke of a £23bn sum from the government, set aside nationally for affordable housing – yet not a penny has rolled from Westminster to our constituency.

Last year, despite the efforts of myself and many others to save Occasio House from closure, the then silence from Robert Halfon and Cllr Charles now betrays their indifference about affordable housing for my generation. Many young people were likely made homeless because of the failure by Conservative controlled Essex County Council to fill the hole left by East Thames housing association. I had sincerely hoped our campaign would have ended differently, and I apologise to all the young people who lost their home. Where was Robert Halfon’s and Joel Charles’s outcry then?

The policies that pass the desks of those within Whitehall directly hinder the chances of me and my friend’s ever getting a home in Harlow. This government have brought the odds of homeownership for my generation, in line with those of winning the lottery. Our own MP has held many positions within government for the most part of his time as MP, if we don’t hold Halfon and his government to account for his hypocrisy on affordable housing, then many others like myself will be priced out of the town they call home.

Don’t be silent like Halfon on the lack of affordable housing.

Jake D. A. Shepherd


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2 Comments for Blogspot: “Halfon’s Hypocrisy on Affordable Housing”:

2017-09-09 22:01:27

A well written article but do not forget quantative easing,low interest rates and all the other rackets to prop up the property market as it is all that keeps this country going at the moment,even as a homeowner i would love to see a crash so that youngsters have a chance to rent at a fair price or maybe buy.

2017-10-10 13:55:25

More lefty clap-trap from a bigoted scrawler. Consider the years before the Tories pushed the Reds out. How or what did the Reds do apart from signing us up to PFI. Typical, have it now and some-one else can pick up the bill. Very talented at spending other peoples money, aren't they ?

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