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Pages tagged "Housing"
After decades of the Conservatives taking Westminster for granted, residents have a real chance to change the future of this city. Years of Conservative cuts have taken their toll on local services, particularly for the most vulnerable. The Conservatives have put the needs of developers above the needs of the vast majority of local residents. For generations they have failed to build the Council (social rent) and lower (intermediate) rent homes that Westminster needs to give the City a viable future.Read more
Ahead of the council elections in May Westminster Labour are setting out their plans for further action on fire safety and calling for reassurance on fire doors.Read more
Covering the centre of London Westminster is home to rough sleepers from all over the country, many of whom have found themselves on the street due to the impact of the Conservative Government’s harsh housing and welfare policies across the UK. It is a rough sleeping challenge tougher than any other local authority.Read more
If elected to run the Council on May 3rd Labour will scrap Westminster’s current cruel homelessness strategy and instead work to ensure that Westminster residents who need temporary accommodation are supported closer to home where ever possible. Labour will seek to amend current banding structure to give long standing local residents of Westminster greater preference within the system, and look at ways to improve assistance to those who rely on family and friends for their support needs or who have children in local schools (rather than helping only those taking exams).
Where private sector options are required to provide temporary accommodation, Labour would work to ensure that previously longstanding residents of Westminster would be able to remain on the housing waiting list if they chose. Where placements have to be made outside of Westminster, a Labour council would seek to do more to inform the receiving boroughs about any family support needs in order to protect the most vulnerable.
We will look to implement the new Homelessness Reduction Act fairly and will seek resources to improve our housing advice and homelessness prevention services.
Labour’s proposed Westminster Housing Commission would undertake an urgent review of Westminster Council’s approach to homelessness that would be overseen by Housing Commission Vice-Chair and former Chief Executive of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K).
Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “The impact of the Conservative Government’s cruel housing and benefits policies are causing problems for many local authorities trying to deal with statutory homelessness however Westminster is widely seen as draconian in its approach. The long-term answer is provided by Labour’s social housing plans but there needs to be an urgent review of how the council is managing the problem. I’m delighted that someone with the independence and expertise that Joanna Kennedy brings would lead that review to ensure Westminster protects some of its most vulnerable residents.”
This policy announcement relates to statutory homelessness, new announcements on rough sleeping will be announced shortly.
The Conservative Council’s Strategy introduced last year created three priority categories: Band 1 for those with significant care needs should be housed in or near Westminster; Band 2 for those in long-term work or with children taking major exams can be housed elsewhere in greater London and Band 3 who can potentially be housed elsewhere in the country. While in practice Council officers have so far showed some flexibility to allow more people to remain in Greater London, the policy continues to carry real risks.
Westminster Labour call for action on off-shore ownership that harms local communities and shames our city
A shocking one-in-ten properties in Westminster is owned through an off-shore company, with the identity of who controls many of them currently unknown. This situation exacerbates the significant problem of housing under-occupation Westminster faces, where properties that previously housed local families are used only a few times a year by overseas investors. Such investment also plays a part in the, often under reported, ownership of empty homes in the City.
Labour will push for the Conservative Government to finally deliver on its long overdue pledge (originally supposed to start June 2016 now not due until 2021) to provide a proper register of overseas beneficial ownership to help limit the acquisition of Westminster’s homes by offshore companies on behalf of the world’s oligarchs. A Labour-led council would work with civil society to shine a light on such dodgy practices and work to stem the flow of dirty money into Westminster’s property market that brings shame to our city.
We will campaign for greater transparency over the ownership of empty homes and we would use the proceeds of the ‘Empty Property Premium’ to council tax to pay for a dedicated empty homes officer, while lobbying central Government to increase the rate of this tax on homes left unused.
Labour Group Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “Parts of Westminster have become an oligarch’s piggy bank with homes in a number of areas left deserted for months on end. Change is needed more than ever to preserve the vibrancy of our local communities and end the shame of Westminster being used to hide the money of those complicit in human rights abuses around the world.
Action on oligarch owned property must form part of an effective UK response to Russia in the wake of the shocking Skripal poisoning. A Labour Council would be delighted to work to see how the proceeds of such sanctions could help tackle the local housing crisis.”
For far too long Westminster Council has not built enough social or lower rent housing to respond to the huge need in our city, and all too often the ‘affordable’ housing that has been built is still too expensive for ordinary families.
Labour is pledging, if elected on May 3rd 2018, to build many more council and lower rent homes than Westminster Tories have ever done. Labour will go significantly further than the Council’s plans for building ‘affordable’ housing while ensuring any affordable homes on council land are either social homes or Westminster Key Worker Homes for those on average incomes or less.
Labour pledge that any building programme on council land will not only fully replace any council homes demolished but ensure that at least 50% of any additional homes built will be at council and Westminster Key Worker rents.
Westminster Labour will ensure that any significant council regeneration scheme is subject to a residents’ ballot – after a meaningful, resident-led consultation with local people. Demolition should no longer be the first option for such plans, and where any local resident is displaced they must be able to be rehoused in the local area with the same type of tenancy and have the right to return if they want to.
Under a Labour Council estate regeneration and local infill schemes would have a strong local lettings policy so that the people impacted by change can be the first to benefit from it.
We will scrap the Conservatives’ proposed planning rule changes (that would reduce the proportion of total new affordable housing that is social to 40%), ensuring that at least 60% of all new affordable housing is council housing.
Any homes for sale built in the regeneration areas and other council owned land must be marketed first to local people, rather than sold off-plan to international investors.
To find new ways to build social and lower rent housing, if elected, Labour will set up a top-level Westminster Housing Commission chaired by leading housing expert Steve Hilditch. The Housing Commission would bring together senior figures from the world of housing, planning and homelessness, working with local residents to lead a root and branch review of the housing crisis in Westminster.
One of the more insidious changes introduced by the Conservative Government since 2010 and driven hard during Boris Johnson’s spell as Mayor of London was the systematically undermining of the meaning of the word ‘affordable’ in affordable housing. Allowing the term to include anything up to 80% market rent gave rhetorical cover for budget cuts and loosening pressure on developers.
If elected to run the council on May 3rd Westminster Labour are committed to doing things differently. Delivering vitally needed new council (social) housing to tackle homelessness, overcrowding and poor housing conditions will be central to Labour’s plan, however other forms of affordable housing will be required both due to issues of build cost and the need to give lower and middle income families the ability to find a home in Westminster.
If Labour win the Council we will create a new type of affordable housing- Westminster Key Worker Homes. We will commit that, in addition to social housing, all new affordable housing built on council land will be at rents that are affordable to residents on average and below average incomes. We will ensure that these homes are focused on providing opportunities for long-standing residents of Westminster and key workers such as nurses, teachers, firefighters and the police.
Leader of the Labour Group Cllr Adam Hug said “Labour are committed to delivering new council housing in Westminster but we also want to do more to give ordinary Westminster families the chance to build a life in Westminster. We are committed to making affordable housing actually affordable to residents on average and below average incomes with Westminster Key Worker Homes.”
Westminster Key Worker Homes would be based on the first two (lower quartile and median household income) of Westminster Council’s four intermediate rent bands (which also include an upper quartile band and a top band between the upper quartile and the £90k affordable housing income cap).
The Westminster Keyworker Homes scheme would retain preferential access for members of the Armed Forces. We will also continue efforts to provide access to social housing for residents on low incomes.
Labour would push developers to deliver significantly more affordable housing than they have before now on their schemes on private land. These homes would provide opportunities for a wide range of residents with a focus on supporting long-term Westminster residents and key workers.
Labour will ensure that Westminster Council’s affordable housing targets are based on delivering 60% social and 40% intermediate homes as they are now- rejecting Conservative plans to flip this ratio to 60% intermediate and 40% social.
Labour will build many more new Council and genuinely affordable homes while scrapping Westminster’s divisive homelessness policies.
For far too long Westminster Conservatives’ laissez-faire and overly cosy approach to private developments in our city have led to Westminster having one of the worst records in London on affordable housing. In the most recent official GLA statistics for ‘affordable’ house building Westminster averages a measly 12% (the 7th worst out of all London Boroughs and the City of London) despite the huge amounts of money going into property development in our city.
If elected to run Westminster on May 3rd 2018 Labour will put the Council’s relationship with developers on a much more businesslike and transparent basis, where the Council is absolutely focused on maximising the benefits for residents. Central to this approach will be action rather than mere rhetoric to ensure private developers contribute more to social and properly affordable housing than they have done under the 54 years of Conservative rule in Westminster.
A Labour Council would:
- Introduce the Mayor’s ‘Threshold Approach’ to viability to utilise the power of transparency to challenge abuse of the viability process. The council would use the power of publicity to encourage residents and experts to test and challenge developer viability assumptions.
- Set the threshold level at 40% affordable housing on private land. This will form the Council’s initial affordable housing target for private land.
- Reform the way land is valued in Westminster’s planning process to prevent developers overpaying for land and using it as an excuse not to provide affordable homes. We will base our approach on the Existing Use Value Plus model used by other Labour Councils.
Under Labour council officers would work pragmatically with developers to ensure they help deliver the social, Westminster Key Worker and other properly affordable homes Westminster needs.
Westminster Labour Leader Cllr Adam Hug said “For too long Westminster Tories have let the developers get away with not providing enough social and properly affordable housing. Labour is proposing radical but common sense steps to ensure that housing in Westminster can be for the many not just the few.”
In January 2018, Westminster Labour Group unveiled a dossier of ’20 Nightmare Stories from City West Homes’. The reaction to this from tenants and leaseholders has been overwhelming, with many more ‘nightmare stories’ coming to light from all over Westminster.
Residents are angry with the very poor performance of City West Homes, particularly following the recent debacles over the new call centre and the repairs contract.
So, today, in March 2018, we are releasing details of ‘25 More Nightmare stories from City West Homes’. These 25 stories tell tales of:
- Continued long waits on the telephone to report problems to the CWH call centre
- Failure to deal with emergencies quickly
- Lack of communication between CWH and its tenants and leaseholders
- Poor communications between CWH and its contractors
- Failure of CWH to return calls from tenants and leaseholders
- Broken appointments by CWH contractors
Labour Councillors have reported all these stories to CWH and many of them have now been resolved by CWH, much to the relief of those tenants and leaseholders affected.
Councillor Adam Hug, Leader of the Labour Group, said:
“What these 25 nightmare stories show clearly is that City West Homes is a failing organisation and only a radical overhaul of its management, its priorities and operations will bring the service improvements needed by its 22,000 tenants and leaseholders. Only Labour is pledged to deliver that necessary radical overhaul.
Thursday 3rd May will be a referendum on City West Homes and Westminster Conservatives’ failure to provide a proper and efficient housing service to its 22,000 tenants and leaseholders.”
Councillor Tim Roca, Labour Housing and Planning spokesperson, said:
“Tenants and leaseholders are sick to the back teeth with the performance of City West Homes, which has lurched from bad to worse in recent months. Labour has a positive plan to turn it around and will put the final say on what happens to CWH, back in the hands of tenants and leaseholders – where it belongs. The choice on Thursday 3rd May is between more of the same or beginning the process of changing housing in Westminster for the better”.
You can read 25 More Nightmare stories from City West Homes
Labour’s Five Point Plan for City West Homes
- From day one, Labour will take action to end the repairs crisis and improve the way City West treats residents.
- We will re-establish local estate offices
- We will urgently look at further ways to improve the failing call centre system.
- We will give residents a greater say over how City West Homes is run.
- We will introduce a new leaseholders’ charter to improve support to resident leaseholders and limiting huge major works bills