There’s no place like home!
There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!’
So said Dorothy as she clicked the heels of her ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz. Of course, were it written today, she may have found that there was actually no place to call home.
Over many years of London Citizens listening campaigns with our members, the London housing crisis has repeatedly been identified as a critical issue concerning citizens of this great city. Housing has become impossibly unaffordable, despite endless talk from politicians about prioritising so-called ‘affordable’ housing. Rents are spiralling out of control, housing stock is kept in poor condition, rogue landlords leave tenants in squalid conditions with no recourse for fear of ‘revenge evictions’. New developments spring up left, right and centre with inadequate public consultation, and little regard for the real needs of local communities.
Londoners will elect a new Mayor of London on Thursday 5th May 2016 - and London Citizens has decided to make housing the number one issue in the run up to the election. We have published a housing manifesto inviting the leading mayoral candidates, Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan, to pledge support for our policies. We have invited them to attend an event on Thursday 28th April at the Copperbox Arena on the Olympic Park, at which they will hear testimony from Londoners about their experiences of the housing crisis.
We’ll be inviting the candidates to make commitments to support our manifesto in front of 6,500 citizens.
1. Our first key ‘ask’ on affordability is that the next mayor would back a ‘London Living Rent’ - a rent set at no more than one third of the median income in their local authority.
2. The second ‘ask’ is for the mayor to back a ‘Rogue Landlord Taskforce’ so as to work with local authorities to clamp down on criminal landlords who neglect their duties.
3. The third ‘ask’ is for the mayor to back a ‘Good Development Standard’ ensuring that all developments on public land deliver at least 50% affordable housing, and that independent public viability assessments are produced to back this standard.
4. Our final ‘ask’ is that the next mayor back the ‘Community Land Trusts’ movement, seeking to establish at least 1,000 CLT homes by 2020.
I’m passionate about this campaign because I see the provision of appropriate housing as being a basic human need. I’ve heard countless stories and witnessed innumerable cases of people’s lives being destroyed through insecure, inadequate or unaffordable housing. Human flourishing is limited by worries about such a basic requirement as shelter and a safe environment in which to live and raise a family.
As a Christian on the Left, I view this campaign as being part of our vital efforts to ensure the dignity of all people through an equitable division of resources - it seems a scandal to me that the market favours the asset-rich and the property-wealthy as they hoard and limit supply to an essential common good so as to drive up prices. (It’s not dissimilar to a drug-baron preying upon addiction or a big-dharma company exploiting illness and disease for their own profit margin!)
I’ve got skin in the game as well - teacher recruitment at my children’s primary school is hampered by escalating prices. Members of my congregation live in overcrowded and squalid conditions with no way out. Communities are destabilised as people change address frequently. Although my family is well-housed in a Church of England vicarage, we would have no hope of housing ourselves in retirement apart from initiatives like the Community Land Trusts. Our communities need better and more affordable housing; our city needs better and more affordable housing. We must break the profiteering property rackets which have commodified such a basic human need as a place to call home.
A Christian vision for the homes of our cities is informed by the prophet Isaiah, who in foretelling the coming kingdom of God and his eternal justice says this:
‘My people will live in peaceful dwelling-places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.’ (Isaiah 35:18)
In God’s eternal society everyone will have a house to call ‘home’.
To hear Graham speak on the theme of “The London Housing Crisis a Pastoral View.” Join us at LONDON’S BIG ISSUE