London’s population is estimated to rise to 9 million by 2025. But uncontrolled immigration from Europe puts into question the validity of this estimate, especially if the doors are thrown open to everyone in Bulgaria and Rumania in 2014, as planned.
Analysis by London councils, embracing all political parties, suggests that London needs 36,000 new homes each year just to stand still and meet current housing demand. But in 2010-11 only 19,860 new homes were built in London. Of those a mere 5,220 were “affordable homes”. The government responds to the shortfall by simply handing a gift to developers – lifting planning controls instead of tackling the problem at source, thereby threatening London’s green areas, even back gardens.
Councils are campaigning to amend the fantastically named Growth and Infrastructure Bill to remove Treasury guidelines that prevent them from borrowing money and building homes. They say that if the imposed ceiling were abolished, an estimated 54,000 new homes could be started immediately. But without some control on demand for housing the problem will continue to get worse. There is no space for new building in London.
The government is also ensuring rents in London are at an all-time high. Rapacious buy-to-let landlords snap up available property in an unregulated “market”. Expensive housing in the capital is an investment opportunity for wealthy foreign owners to keep their money safe against political disturbance elsewhere in the world. London has seen waves of foreign speculation in house buying – Arab, Russian, Greek, French – in recent months.
The Trust for London says housing costs are a crucial factor in London having the highest poverty rates of all England’s regions. 360,000 households are on council waiting lists in London: six out of ten young renters never expect to be able to afford to buy a home.
Tens of thousands of Londoners are expected to be socially cleansed and moved as housing benefit cuts bite and they are made homeless or removed to “cheaper” parts of Britain in 2013, creating housing ghettos. This housing apartheid will tend to keep certain parts of London politically favourable to the government. ■