Z2K responds to the Mayor’s draft Housing Strategy

housingcrisis1Yesterday marked the close of the consultation on the Mayor of London’s draft London Housing Strategy, and so Z2K was been hard at work finalising our response.  Overall, our view is that this strategy is a big disappointment.  There’s just no way the very limited set of actions contained within it will address the Capital’s escalating housing crisis.  That’s why we are calling on the Mayor to strengthen it in several key areas before he submits it to the Secretary of State for approval.

The strategy has a long and convoluted history.  Boris finally published his first housing strategy in February 2010 – nearly two years after becoming Mayor.  However, before the ink was dry, he decided the Coalition Government’s cuts to capital investment and policy reforms meant it needed updating and he published some “initial proposals” for consultation with the London Assembly.  A “Revised” London Housing Strategy was published for public consultation in 2011, followed by another 18 months’ deafening silence. Continue reading

Z2K Holds Housing Benefit Conference

Yesterday we held an event in conjunction with 4in10 (a Save the Children initiative which campaigns to reduce London poverty) exploring the effects of reductions to Housing Benefits on London. Speaking at the event were Camila Batmanghelidjh, of Kids Company, Karen Buck MP, Jenny Jones AM, the Green Party’s mayoral candidate, Nigel Minto, of London Councils, and our own Joanna Kennedy.

(Camila Batmanghelidjh, Karen Buck MP, Romin Sutherland [Z2K's Housing Benefit Expert], Jenny Jones AM, Joanna Kennedy)

(Jenny Jones AM, Rev. Paul Nicolson [our Chairman], Camila Batmanghelidjh)

As announced in today’s Guardian, Z2K are launching a dedicated advice line and casework service, NextDoor, that will help people forced to migrate to and settle in more affordable areas.

The event was extremely well attended by a number of people from Local Government and the Third Sector. While the atmosphere was glum, given the likely negative effects these policies will have on vulnerable people in London, in the discussion groups a number of positive potential policies were formulated.

UPDATE

Dave Hill has written about the event on his blog. On it he transcribed a section of Camilla’s speech:

There are many young people who have had to flee their family home from a very young age, and they are prematurely living independently – on their own, without family support. What is very, very important is to understand the implication of this cap in relation to some of those young people.

The truth is that a six-foot boy without a job, without prospects of employment is going to find it very hard to rent a room in a house. Very few people are going to rent their space to such a young person – male or female. They will be worried about whether the person can sustain the bills, what kind of entourage of friends the person is likely to have and bring into the house. And those are legitimate anxieties in the context of some of the challenges that our young people are enduring at street level.

I suspect that we are going to be at the edge of an enormously risky situation, as more and more vulnerable young people aren’t going to be able to rent places to live, or find accommodation. I think it is imperative for government to wake up to the special needs of lone young people. I think the riots of the summer, whatever narrative you put on it, whether you blame the police or anyone else, were profoundly about revenge – about young people’s revenge about society, because they felt so powerless and so not thought about.

Moving forward, I think these caps run the risk of leaving out yet again the special needs of vulnerable young people…they present [themselves for help] with great bravado, and they survive by appearing tough, but fundamentally they are some of the most sensitive individuals in our community, enduring a period of flux both economic and emotional, often on their own, and who do deserve out support.

Childcare

The Resolution Foundation has released an authoritative report on the failures of childcare to meet the needs of working parents in the UK today. As expected the uncertainty over how help with child care costs will delivered under Universal Credit is highlighted. The DWP are still considering a range of options despite the Welfare Reform Bill having passed through the commons and being due in the Lords this autumn.

In modelling one of the favoured options, 70% of costs up to £125 for one child and £210 for two or more children, Donald Hirsch found that a second earner on £7.20 an hour with two children aged two and five keeps just £1.75 for every extra hour worked up to 15 hours. Once she works over 20 hours the amount she keeps for each additional hour drops to 66p. And if she works over 30 hours she actually loses 24p every hour she works. This clearly fails the coalition’s own test that work should always pay.

In London and the South East, where childcare costs are higher, parents will pay more out of their own pocket more quickly as they take on more work. Last week Z2K attended a childcare seminar run by 4 in 10. There Veronica King of the Daycare Trust discussed the Childcare for the Capital’s Children campaign which aims to improve affordability of childcare in London. We share their hope that it will be a central issue during next year’s London Mayoral elections.

As the Daycare Trust noted at the seminar work is one of the best routes out of poverty for low income families, so it is essential that these difficult problems are addressed by the coalition if they are to fulfil their promises and obligations.