THE south-east London borough of Newham achieved the dubious record of having the biggest rise in house prices in the whole of the UK in 2015 according to data supplied by building societies and banks.
The price of an average house in Newham went up by 22.2% this year as compared to 2014. The cost of a house in the borough is on average £319,522, up from £261,399 last year. The survey by Lloyds bank and the Halifax found that huge price increases in housing are now centred on areas like Newham, which are just outside Central London but within easy commuting distance, or areas like Hertfordshire, which also offers easy commuting into the capital.
The massive increases in house prices, coupled with equally, if not bigger, increases in the cost of private rented accommodation, means that not just the poor and low paid are being completely priced out of housing, but even families enjoying comparatively high salaries cannot afford to buy or rent.
Research carried out by estate agents Savills published in November estimated that in London even an income of £60,000 a year was not enough to put a roof over your head. The same research estimated that every year 70,000 households were unable to rent or buy in London.
At this rate the figure will reach a staggering 350,000 by 2020. These figures take into account the Tory boast that it has set a target of building 200,000 new houses a year – a target that most expect will be missed as the UK economy slumps even deeper into debt.
As Savills reported, changes to renting rules introduced by the Tories, along with replacing social housing with ‘affordable rents’ that are supposedly 80% of the market rate, will drive rents out of the reach of ordinary families.
They have estimated that in a typical London borough rent levels would have to be halved to make them affordable to those families who are being excluded from the housing market. With the Tories cutting money to local councils it is impossible today for those councils to subsidise rented social housing.
Instead the government is forcing councils, and not-for-profit housing associations, to sell off the land on which council estates are built to the private property speculators, out to make a killing on the inflated cost of housing.
These estates are daily being bulldozed. Perfectly good flats and houses occupied by workers and their families are being torn down and replaced by luxury apartments as councils try to balance the books by flogging them off.
Nothing epitomises this rape of social housing more than the fate of the giant Heygate Estate in the Southwark borough of Elephant and Castle, which had always provided affordable housing for ordinary working class people.
Demolished just over a year ago the Heygate, now renamed Elephant Park, boasts of one bedroom flats for sale for £500,000. None of this cleansing of the capital by driving the working class out and making London, in the words of leading property consultants Knight Frank, ‘the leading city internationally for the global wealthy’, has occurred by accident.
The Tory policy of forcing council and social housing to be sold cheap to their property speculator friends, along with the relaxation of planning regulations designed to facilitate the maximum amount of profit to these vultures, is quite deliberate.
Capitalism in its crisis is desperate to make a profit at all costs including the cost of driving millions out onto the streets. There can be only one answer to this. Immediately councils of action must be set up in every community, uniting trade unionists and tenants, to stop all further evictions by organising a mass campaign of occupations and strike action.
All empty buildings purchased as assets by investors must be taken over and thrown open to the homeless. Above all the TUC must be forced to stop merely whining about the suffering of workers and take action to bring this government down by organising a general strike and going forward to a workers government and a socialist society in which everyone will have affordable, decent housing as a right.