Tag: Housing

I have noticed a lot of young people enthusiastically supporting the Government’s proposals to radically cut down planning regulations. They join in attacks on groups like the National Trust and Friends of the Earth, calling them wealthy NIMBYs who are protecting their own over-inflated house prices. They buy into the suggestion that the planning system has held back house building, harming a growing proportion of the current generation of young people who are now “jilted”, priced out of home ownership. Is this right? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe the Government’s proposals are bad for young people, and bad for intergenerational justice. Is planning the problem? There can be no doubt that planning regulations are a drag on housing development, adding both the cost of the buildings themselves and the process of putting them up. But that’s like saying that the minimum wage and gender equality laws are a…

Read More Young people should be wary of the Government’s planning bonfire

Andy Allan’s excellent post on cycle campaigning reminded me to blog about some mapping help I’ve given a campaign group called the Elephant Amenity Network. One of their long-running issues has been the clearance and demolition of the unfairly maligned Heygate Estate, over 1000 council homes that should have been refurbished for council tenants instead of being knocked down for aspiring home owners to move into the area. One of the best features of the Heygate Estate is the urban forest that has grown there in the past thirty or forty years. But the few remaining residents and local campaigners fear the “regeneration” will see many or even most of them cut down. Through a friend who is involved with the campaign, I came along to help them map the trees that are there now. Knowing what you have seems like a good first step to saving it. So I…

Read More Maps, open data and activism on the Heygate estate

As another flurry of snow hits the office windows here at City Hall, we’ve put the finishing touches to a video by Darren Johnson investigating the future of insulation in London (and the reasons why over a million homes are still bleedin’ cold!)

Read More How are we going to insulate London?

After packed weekends at weddings and the Green Party conference, and with my fiancee away for a week, I’ve spent a very nice weekend doing those things I always mean to do. Top of my list was to build a cold frame-come-greenhouse for overwintering my herbs. One salvaged broken chair, a trip to the DIY store and a few hours work later and I had fashioned the rather nice frame pictured opposite. It is sitting on our small balcony, the only space available to most Londoners. I’m not really sure which of the strawberry plants, rosemary, mint, coriander, broad-leafed parsley and the chives will survive the winter but at least they now have a cosy little added help. In between ironing, cleaning, sit-ups and press-ups, I’ve also caught up on some of the debate following the autumn Green Party conference. No mention online of my motion introducing policy on Community…

Read More Last of the year’s “garden” work

Being a Green, I’m not following Labour’s hustings for their Mayor of London candidate too closely. But being a realistic left-of-centre Green, I’m hoping that either Ken or Oona get elected into City Hall in 2012. Oona King hasn’t impressed me much so far. Her candidacy seems very light on detail, her policy pronouncements full of nice language but no specifics. As Martin Hoscik writes, Ken Livingstone is simply rehearsing his 2008 manifesto, with a few innovations (such as borrowing affordable housing money on the bond market) that are basically unfolding behind the scenes in City Hall already. But on the BBC Politics Show on Sunday, King did get one impressive point in. Livingstone is basically gearing up for a re-run of the 1980s, when he battled with Thatcher from the GLC. He wants to fight, fight, fight every cut (transcript here). But as King pointed out, once the Mayor…

Read More Ken vs. Oona – anything new?

Jenny Jones has produced a new report and this accompanying video, explaining why the Government and Mayor of London’s approach to affordable housing is fundamentally broken. It’s something that a growing number of people know, whether you’ve been priced out or you know someone who has by decades of massive house price rises. It is most severe in London and fancy rural communities, but is a growing problem across the country. I’m pretty proud of the work Jenny and I did on it!

Read More Priced out of buying a home?

The chart below shows a breakdown of where my monthly gross income goes. I’m earning in the region of £30k/year, above the London average but not exactly an enormous sum. One of my favourite adages is that British people want Scandinavian public services with American tax levels.  Raising taxes to tackle the deficit is treated as something approaching political suicide. But do we pay all that much in tax? Put aside the fact that at 36% of the UK’s GDP, the current tax level is lower than under Margaret Thatcher (when it dipped to 40%) and much lower than the Swedish level of around 50%. How does tax affect me? Well my income tax and council tax, which pay for all the basic public services, the roads, waste collection, public transport investment, welfare for people in harder circumstances and much more account for less than my rent, which pays for…

Read More Why so concerned about tax?

How can we tell a simple, persuasive story about Green housing policy? Tom Hill sent me this challenging article about the US Democrats’ recent failure to turn solid facts into folksy stories, reminiscent of George Lakoff’s past work on their failure to frame issues correctly (read this and this). I’ve been doing some work recently on the Green story about the recession, and what the Mayor of London should do in response. A big part of this is the Green story on housing, since the housing bubble is both a structural weakness in our economy and a negative consequence for the majority of people for whom it is far too expensive. Jenny Jones has recently published a great report explaining the downside of the story, and we’re working together on a follow-up describing a range of rather complex solutions. So how can we tell our positive story on housing in…

Read More Telling the Green story on housing

Halifax have published a great little fact sheet on some key housing trends over the last 50 years. The most dramatic is that the cost of buying a home has risen 273% above incomes over that period, with the sharpest rise during the 2000s when they rose by 63%. This is the increasing cost of housing adjusted for increases in income; or adjusting for inflation to state rises in real terms, for economists. Imagine if food or heating bills rose that quickly compared to incomes! Whilst the property-owning journalists hail this rise in house prices, more and more people are squeezed out of the market, or forced to sacrifice huge chunks of their salary to repay mortgages. Jenny Jones published a report on the housing crisis in London recently. She shows that over the past decade the cost of buying a home doubled in London, well above the national rise…

Read More The cost of housing doubles in London

Can a local community pay for its own regeneration instead of relying on developers with tall blocks of flats and massive government grants? I got thinking about this again after reading a jargon-fuelled paper on urban rights and renewal sent my way by local hero Eileen Conn. The author writes about communities owning, or controlling, their urban environment, and being able to determine how to spend “surplus value” (Marxist terminology for capital that rich people and governments accumulate off our backs). How could local people in Peckham, for example, decide how money is spent in the area? Here are two quick steps that are decidely practical compared to the ivory tower academic paper. First, give people more control over the property and land in Peckham. At the moment you either buy a home and the land it sits on, or you rent from a landlord, or you rent from the…

Read More Can the community regenerate Peckham?