As local Councillors we have to make daily decisions that affect our neighbours. Some seem quite minor, where should a new electric charging point go? Others are major and new building often fits into this category.
Sometimes we are leading opposition to developments we consider inappropriate but sat other times we are supporting new buildings particularly when it leads to new sustainable social and ‘affordable’ housing.
And this matters to us. Day in day out we meet the people living in temporary, overcrowded homes struggling to bring up families in tiny flats where it is far from uncommon for six people to be sharing small two bedroom accommodation.
Our current government will not offer us the funding to build our way out of this and so, like a lot of boroughs, we pay for the new council flats through mixed developments with homes for sale. None of us on the council would choose this but it does mean we can create new homes like the ones on Renfrew Road that have just opened on the Knight’s Walk estate.
Princes Ward is full of people desperate to move or find a permanent council home but in Lambeth we have several thousand families in temporary accommodation and over 20,000 people on our waiting lists. The chances of a transfer are minute.
And when we do propose schemes that will bring social housing we encounter resistance and even organised campaigns. Anya Martin, director of PricedOut, England’s campaign for housing affordability expressed this very eloquently in the website OnLondon in December:
It is not hard to understand the complaints of these campaigns. Much-needed as new council homes are, residents who already live next to where they are to be built aren’t set to personally benefit from them – by definition, they already have homes. Building is noisy and disturbing, especially when it’s right next door. But this takes us to the ultimate problem behind England’s internationally sluggish housing supply: everyone thinks new homes should go elsewhere; and the neighbours of elsewhere don’t want them either.
As local Councillors we have to balance the needs of our local residents with the interests of our borough in general and that will include considering the needs of people who don’t have a vote or say in local campaigns as they are homeless or on our waiting lists.
We have to weigh up whether new homes for our most needy families is a price worth paying when it can create shadows over a green space, obscure a view of a parliament tower, or mean trees have to be cut down even if they are to be replaced.
As politicians we need to show leadership and not just be led by public sentiment. We need to consider the bigger picture and decide what is best for our borough and the future. These decisions are rarely simple but we hope our colleagues and I have the courage to do the right thing.
That is why, for example, we support the Denby Court development which will provide new sustainable council-rent homes for between 90 and 180 people (depending on family sizes) and 22 ‘affordable’ flats as well.
We will argue its case but also make sure that as far as possible we protect local people from the negative effects of the project particularly during construction.
Here are the details: https://www.homesforlambeth.co.uk/our-places/project-denby-court/
Cllrs David Amos, Jon Davies and Jo Simpson.