Corbyn takes aim at rented sector and PM Johnson
Labour leader tells meeting the ex-Mayor is guilty of the ‘social cleansing of central London’
20 September, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the meeting with, among others Joe Delaney, far right
BORIS Johnson, the private rental sector and a half-finished luxury development in Finsbury Park all came under fire from Jeremy Corbyn at a meeting on Wednesday.
The Labour leader spoke as part of a panel made up of campaigners at the meeting on Britain’s housing “crisis” organised by the Islington North constituency Labour Party in Holloway.
The Islington North MP accused the Tory prime minister Boris Johnson of the “social cleansing of central London” during his tenure as the Mayor of London between 2008 and 2016.
“He [Mr Johnson] had all the power to deal with planning issues to ensure there was a high level of social housing. Virtually every case that was called-in by him ended up with less social housing or no social housing whatsoever and it was a developers’ paradise,” he said.
The Mayor has the power of “calling-in” a planning application and ultimately deciding on whether it should be approved or rejected, potentially overruling a local authority’s decision. Mr Corbyn said the former Mayor’s planning decisions “helped with the social cleansing of central London and the denial of working-class communities of their right to housing”.
There was loud applause when Mr Corbyn moved away from the topic of housing to say that his party “will do everything we can to stop” Mr Johnson if he forces the UK to leave the European Union without a deal.
He called for the private rental sector to be “regulated”.
An illustration of how the City North development could look in Finsbury Park
“Some private sector landlords are very nice people and are very good and look after their tenants but the majority don’t necessarily fall into that category,” he said.
He spoke of the perils of shorthold tenancies where renters could be easily turfed out of their homes for asking for maintenance or repairs to their homes.
“We want to introduce security of tenure and introduce regulations to ensure good quality insulation of those homes and empower London level and borough level authorities to introduce the regulations that are necessary.
“There is nothing extreme about this, many countries across Europe look aghast at Britain and say why on earth do we not regulate the private rented sector, why do we allow this sort of thing to carry on,” he said.
The City North development in Finsbury Park was also criticised by Mr Corbyn, who said it makes him “very, very angry” and was an “allegory for modern Britain”.
Only 13 per cent of the 335 flats in the towers which are currently being sold off-plan in the Far East are classed as “affordable” housing. Affordable does not necessarily mean social rent but includes shared ownership homes.
Mr Corbyn said: “There is no social housing and if that isn’t an allegory for modern Britain you’ve then got several dozen people sleeping rough within a hundred metres of that new development.
“This makes me very, very angry. You’re wasting opportunity, you’re wasting resources, and you’re wasting people’s lives. We’ve got to do better and I am certain we will.”
The development, a joint venture between Telford Homes and the Business Design Centre, was approved back in 2010 when the Liberal Democrats held the majority in Islington Council and is set to be completed next spring.
He said that housing should be approached as a “right” and not as an opportunity for “investment and great profits”.
Joe Delaney, a resident who lived in the block attached to Grenfell Tower and has given evidence at the on-going inquiry looking at the 2017 fire which claimed 72 lives, warned that there was not enough outside scrutiny within councils to ensure homes were safe and habitable.
“Don’t make the mistakes that the people in Grenfell made when we just thought there was nothing we can do and we sat back and took this and it was the biggest mistake of our lives,” he said.