Let's Talk Merton is our monthly informal political discussion, which takes place on the 2nd Monday of the month.
In February, the theme was the housing crisis. See below for the full review of the meeting.
The housing crisis - the Let's Talk Merton view
Unsurprisingly, there are no simple solutions to the housing crisis! Each year, we need to build twice as many houses as we currently are.
To promote and protect diverse communities, we must ensure diverse housing stock for rent and purchase, and plan for public services (transport, health, education, etc.) to meet increased demand. To achieve this we must increase availability of affordable housing, and hold councils to the targets they set (unfortunately in Merton, affordable housing is nowhere near the 40% target). The cap on council borrowing should be lifted to enable a radical increase in social housing. We should consider relaxing regulations that restrict the development of smaller properties, and support and encourage older home owners to downsize to release housing stock for families. We will also need to increase the density of housing and be open to building on the green belt (expanding London by 1 mile would create 1 million new homes), recognising that this is contentious!
As Liberal Democrats, we cannot afford nimbyism – we should support planning applications while looking to address legitimate concerns. We also need to support efforts to make more land available (and oppose land banking by developers who want to maintain high prices) and ensure availability of finance for development – a publicly-owned Housing Investment Bank could be key to transforming the housing crisis. Efforts to tackle rogue landlords and encourage longer-term rental contracts must continue. However, scapegoating landlords could be counterproductive, reducing availability of rental properties and increasing rents.