The outcome of the Council elections next Thursday will determine the future of housing in this district.
The Conservatives have presided over 12 years of housing failure, leading to falling home-ownership, unaffordable private rents and a big increase in homelessness. Developers have often been allowed to avoid the legal requirement that 30% of new private homes must be affordable, meaning home-ownership for those under 45 has dropped sharply. The failure to build new council homes means that there are now approximately 2,500 families on the district’s housing needs register. That’s 2,500 families without a home. It has also caused a huge increase in the housing benefit bill, as low-income families cannot afford the cost of private rent. The current policy is damaging to residents who cannot afford a home and to the public finances.
No one visiting Canterbury of an evening can have failed to notice the significant numbers of people sleeping rough in doorways and down side streets. This is not acceptable and the new council must intervene.
Pursuing the same old policies will not address these problems and bold new ones are needed. A Labour-run Council would build, or acquire, 2,000 new council homes over the next 10 years. That is the only way that the housing needs of the less well-off will be met. It would also insist on private developers complying with their “affordable homes” commitments and support an all-year-round hostel for homeless people.
The Conservatives are ideologically opposed to social housing and remain committed to 1980s dogma about a “property-owning democracy” and “market forces.” These policies simply haven’t worked for many people and haven’t been much help to the 2,500 families in the district with nowhere to live.
The choice for voters on Thursday is pretty simple. Do we want everyone in the district to have a home or not?
Simon Warley, Labour Councillor for Westgate ward.
After consistent pressure from the Labour Party and campaigners, the government have announced that they will abolish section 21 – a notice served by landlords to evict tenants without good reason. Though this shows incredible progress for renters rights, we still have much further to go. This is why a Labour council in Canterbury will establish an ethical letting agency to extend further support for those that are renting.
So often, adverts for rental properties bare the sign ‘No DSS’ (Department for Social Security). Though DSS doesn’t exist anymore, in practice, it means that landlords will not house tenants in receipt of housing and disability benefit. This is why an ethical letting agency would establish a collection of landlords that would not disadvantage potential tenants. Last year, an investigation by the BBC found that many landlords are more likely to rent to people with pets than people on state benefits. This shocking discovery necessitates why we need to stand with renters and against the discrimination they face.
Nationally, the Labour Party has promised to bring in legislation that will ban letting agency fees and Jeremy Corbyn himself has supported the work of ACORN – the renters union – in their campaigns. Locally, the establishment of an ethical letting agency will follow suit, by supporting all renters find appropriate properties and breaking down the barriers of discrimination that they currently face. Despite the fact that renting is growing increasingly common, with home ownership figures down, renters are still facing exploitation by rogue landlords, poor housing conditions and high costs.
This ethical letting agency would ensure that tenants were not being ripped off by landlords who are only prepared to line their pockets, whilst properties fall into disrepair. It would prevent tenants from paying extortionate costs for little gain and would only support advertise for landlords who not discriminate against those in receipt of any state benefit. This is why it is clear that a Canterbury City Council led by the Labour Party is the only option for renters locally.