Today I finally got round to reading the manifestos. As I sit here in Pret a Manger looking out over Trafalgar Square in the city of L&Q’s birth, who offers the best deal for London?
Who offers the best deal for a rising population, expected to grow from the current ‘highest ever’ of 8.7 million people to a predicted 10 million over the next decade?
Who offers the best deal for the aspiring home owner who needs a deposit of £100,000 and a salary of £100,000 to buy the average home, when the average Londoner earns £33,000 and someone on a London Living Wage earns £19,000?
Who offers the most for people in the private rented sector which accounted for two out of every three moves in the Capital last year? When the average rent for a one bed in London is higher than the average rent for a four bed in the rest of the country?
And who offers the most for social housing when the average income of an L&Q tenant is £14,000 and the average income of people moving into an L&Q home last year was just £11,500? Can you imagine living on £11,500?
The good news is that, for the first time in a generation everyone seems to be taking housing seriously. Everyone says it is a priority. Everyone is promising many more homes across all tenures. Everyone is giving greater focus to quality and specialist housing. Everyone sees the potential of the housing association track record and balance sheet. And everyone wants to get local authorities back in the game.
Perhaps we are witnessing a return to the days when political parties competed for votes by promising more on housing. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new era of partnership and investment.
But if it is, every political party needs to shift their attention beyond 2022, beyond annual targets and beyond 'end of this Parliament' promises. Housing is a long term game and requires a long term plan. We don't need one million homes by 2020 or one million homes during the next Parliament or even 300,000 homes each year. We need three million homes over ten years and the land, funding and skills to build them. In London we need at least half a million new homes over the same period and at least half of them need to be genuinely affordable to people on average and below average incomes.
After a few hard years of adjustment housing associations are on the map and on the rise. Completions are rising; in London, the g15 has committed to a fifty percent increase in production. But we can only deliver if we deliver in partnership.
Too often we focus on the barriers rather than the solution. In the words of my Chair “everything is an opportunity”, that’s certainly the case for housing associations as we approach this election. And in the words of another g15 Chair “for heaven’s sake stop complaining, just get on with it”.
So my ask of the next Prime Minister is simple - set out a new long term post Brexit vision for investment and growth with housing centre stage and we will back you. Work with the Mayor, with every local authority, every housing association and every house builder and we will work together and put the housing crisis behind us once and for all.
So who gets my vote? Housing. As always.