I warmly welcome the news that Islington under the Lib Dems is to build the first new council housing in a generation.
The housing crisis is at its most acute here in Islington which has seen massive take up of the right to buy, spiralling house prices and an influx of new residents, all in the 2nd most densely populated borough in London . We need a mix of housing to meet Islington residents’ diverse needs. That includes council housing, subsidised intermediate housing and private housing so we keep a thriving local economy as well as a strong community.
Despite all their talk about housing, Labour have been slower to act. Under the Labour council only 25% of new homes had to be affordable, on developments of over 15 units. The Lib Dem council increased this first to 35% then to 50% – and reduced the threshold to 10 units. Under the Lib Dem council, Islington has seen an extra 1,300 affordable homes built in the last 2 years – more than Camden , Westminster and Haringey combined. Much of this has come from the new homes in the Arsenal scheme, which Labour opposed.
The Labour government has talked a lot about providing new housing but have so far not allowed councils to build new council housing. It is the Lib Dem council which is taking the initiative and raising funds to do this – largely from selling the freeholds of commercial properties. It is hypocritical in the extreme for Labour MP Emily Thornberry to call on the council to ‘be bold and build’ despite opposing every initiative that would help do just that.
What of the other parties? The Greens also opposed the Arsenal redevelopment and nationally oppose ALMOs like Homes for Islington. The Tories have no councillors and no parliamentary candidates in Islington – but their Islington North vice-chair Paul Newman is on record as opposing all new council housing.
Of course new council housing is only part of the solution. But it is a vital part – and one only Liberal Democrats are actually delivering.