London Labour Housing Group Campaigning to win on housing

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1 London Labour Housing Group Campaigning to win on housing London LHG is the organisation for Labour Party members in London who care about housing. We work closely with the Labour Group on the London Assembly and the Labour Group at London Councils. Started in 2011, we focused on helping the Party to develop policies for the 2012 Mayoral Election and, now, for the 2014 London borough elections (see our London policy report Rebuilding London s Communities at By adopting progressive housing policies and campaigning to get our positive message across to Londoners, housing can be a key issue that swings voters to Labour. Getting decent housing policies for London is a 3 year project: In 2014: Labour needs to win control of as many London boroughs as possible so that we can make a start locally. In 2015: We need to win as many London seats as possible to ensure there will be a Labour Government, which will start to meet its pledges, eg to build 200,000 new homes a year and to tackle rogue landlords. In 2016: We need a Labour London Mayor to put in place proper plans to build genuinely affordable homes in the Capital. In this note we: suggest 5 Housing Pledges that could be amended for local circumstances and adopted for local campaigns highlight some of the key housing issues that Labour can raise on the doorstep and in social media campaigns set out what London Labour Housing Group can offer to help local parties to campaign on housing from now on. Keep in touch with London Labour Housing Group Feedback is very welcome. We have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed or you can get in touch by through Like us on Facebook London-Labour-Housing- Group/ Follow us on - and invite your friends to do the same. We will follow back any local Labour campaigns. Other Twitter contacts: London Labour Labour Housing Labour frontbench housing London Assembly Labour Hashtags you can use: #londonhousing #londonhousingcrisis #london #ukhousing #housing #bedroomtax

2 Labour in London: 5 Housing Pledges 1. Increase the supply of genuinely affordable homes We will build new council homes using recent funding reforms and work with housing partners to secure new social housing which can be allocated to local people. 2. Tackle rogue landlords and rip-off letting agents We will use the powers available to us to curb the worst excesses in the private rented sector and tackle rogue landlords with appropriate interventions such as fines, unannounced inspections and environmental health enforcement. We will challenge rip-off letting agent fees and continue to lobby for reforms such as longer term tenancies and controllable rents. 3. Build homes for London's growing population We will work with developers, housing associations and local communities to build homes of all types and tenures that will meet the needs of London's growing population. We will ensure lowcost homeownership schemes are available to help first time buyers struggling to get on the housing ladder. We will work to unlock stalled schemes that could deliver thousands of homes quickly and identify brown field and publically owned sites that could be utilised. 4. Bring empty homes back into use The majority of empty homes in the capital are in private hands. We will use powers such as increasing council tax on properties empty for more than 6 months and use a combination of loans and grants for building works to enable families to live in them once again. We will continue to lobby for stronger powers to tackle the problem of overseas buyers leaving properties empty. 5. Create jobs and apprenticeships in the building industry We will use our powers to make sure new housing developments produce jobs and apprenticeships for ordinary Londoners. We will encourage the use of local supply chains and ensure all jobs created are paid at least the London Living Wage. Pledges worked out in discussion between Labour Group on London Councils, Labour Group on London Assembly, and London Labour Housing Group

3 What are the issues? The central issue in London housing is that not enough homes have been built in the capital for more than 30 years. More than 80% of Londoners in a recent poll said London was gripped by a full housing crisis. Since Thatcher stopped councils building houses, London has failed to meet rising demand and need. The inevitable result is rising house prices and escalating market rents all over the city. Home ownership is falling in London as more and more people are priced out. As supply has fallen, access to social housing has become much more restricted than it used to be. For more and more people, the only option is private renting. Under Ken Livingstone as Mayor, London was increasing the number of new affordable homes being built every year he had a balanced programme of both social housing at genuinely affordable rents and intermediate housing like shared ownership for people who could not afford to buy outright. Under Boris Johnson, building social rented housing has stopped, rents of new homes have increased massively and security of tenure has been removed. Homelessness is not being dealt with leaving many more families in temporary accommodation. Tory London boroughs like Hammersmith and Fulham are removing social housing wherever they can: selling off whole estates for private luxury housing and refusing to require new developments to include genuinely affordable homes. The private rented sector is growing fast across London but is badly regulated. It is accommodating more and more families with children who would, in previous times, have lived in social housing or become home owners. There are too many rogue landlords and too many tenants have to suffer high rents, poor conditions, sharing and overcrowding. And rip-off agents as well. Cuts to housing benefit are forcing many Londoners out of their homes and traditional communities many of London s most vibrant mixed neighbourhoods, where rich and poor lived side by side, are being lost. Tenants are not responsible for high rents. It is hard for tenants on low and moderate incomes to find anything affordable in most parts of London, not just the centre. The hated and punitive bedroom tax is hitting some social tenants hard and there are not enough smaller homes for them to move to. The Government s help to buy scheme is causing a new housing bubble, making it even harder for people to get on the housing ladder and buy for the first time. Many existing home owners would ace a financial crisis if interest rates rise significantly, which they may do next year. Labour s detailed housing policies will be presented in the Manifesto for the 2015 General Election. A number of commitments have been made already, for example: to build 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next parliament a high but obtainable target and to bring in a use it or lose policy for companies that hoard land. to bring in stronger regulation of the private rented sector, more action against rogue landlords, landlord registration, regulation of letting agents, and a move towards longer tenancies and more predictable rents. to repeal the Bedroom Tax.

4 Key messages Nationally, housing is central to Labour s message on the need to tackle the cost of living crisis. Good housing underpins Labour s commitment to improve health, create jobs and apprenticeships for young people, and improve educational attainment and social mobility. Our messages need to reflect Labour s positive housing agenda nationally and locally. But they also have to expose what the Tory Government, Tory London Mayor and Tory London Councils have been doing. Labour s housing policies appeal to traditional Labour voters but also to many people who have supported other Parties in the past or have little interest in politics - but are concerned about local housing issues and how they affect their families and neighbourhoods. Across London we need to explain how the Tories have virtually ended the building of social rented housing at genuinely affordable rents and are selling off much of what already exists. Their Help to Buy scheme is pushing prices up, making homes for Londoners even more unaffordable to buy. And private rents follow house values, so they will keep on going up and up. Boris Johnson even thinks the vast inflow of foreign money to buy London homes is a good thing. In Labour Council areas, the council s record should be spelled out clearly. There are lots of examples of good practice across London for example Islington s building of new council houses, Newham s licensing of private landlords, and Ealing s action against bed in sheds. How has the Council helped private tenants to tackle bad landlords, what improvements have been carried out on estates? And we should challenge myths. More than ever after Benefits Street the media if full of horror stories about people on benefits and social housing tenants. Most of these are totally false stories designed to demonise people. In truth, nearly half of the cost of benefits is pensions! The majority of new people claiming housing benefit are people in work who need help to meet high private rents. Targeting leaflets to help get out the vote Targeting particular groups of voters with information about housing can be a good way of encouraging people to vote as part of the general campaign. Specific campaigns, leaflets and any other materials must always be agreed by the campaign organiser and must comply with electoral law (eg the imprint, expense returns). Council tenants are often the easiest to identify for targeted leaflets but it is important to remember that here are no mono-tenure estates these days most estates have a significant number of leaseholders (who may face issues to do with service charges, for example) and private tenants living in former council flats. Private tenants are often hard to identify but generic housing leaflets need to specify how Labour would plan to help meet their needs. Assertions in leaflets should always be based on proper evidence should not over exaggerate.

5 The content of leaflets will vary from borough to borough in Labour boroughs there will be examples of the Labour Council s work to include and in Tory boroughs there will be housing horrors to highlight. But for all leaflets it is important to think about: Who is the target audience? Even on council estates there may be significant number of leaseholders and private tenants. What story or narrative are you trying to get across? Private and social tenants and people who want to get on the housing ladder have all been badly affected by the Tory Government s cuts and the failure to build new affordable homes at social rents (councils and housing associations). What is the key message? What is the evidence to support this message? Using social media There is no substitute for face to face contact but using social media is becoming an increasingly useful method of campaigning. However it should be closely linked in to other parts of the campaign. It should contain the same messages and reinforce what is being said to the electorate in other ways. Communications should try to be as engaging and wherever possible should encourage people to join or support some activity. Facebook and Twitter campaigns should always be discussed with the local campaign organiser and local party leadership. The most effective campaigning is often when people are asked what they think and given opportunities to respond. Good pictures and simple messages that can be passed on are best. Make sure that electors details are rigorously collected eg from petitions or information collected on the doorstep - and recorded in relevant ways. List of social media contacts take time to build up and once you have them it is important to keep in regular (but not too frequent) contact. lists are still a great way to keep in touch. Most Labour borough campaigns have their own twitter feed to keep supporters informed about campaigns or events. It makes sense to use hashtags like #labourdoorstep #uklabour or London and housing specific ones like #london #ukhousing. Watch out for trending hashtags like the current #bedroomtax and #costofcameron. On housing, frontbenchers, London journalists like Dave Hill on the Guardian and local campaigners often use the hashtag #londonhousing or #londonhousingcrisis to share information about housing scandals and campaigns. London LHG is keen to ask anyone involved in local housing campaigns to in their tweets. We will retweet any that we think would be of interest to others following us. By building up our followers and retweeting useful information in this way, we want to keep everyone active in Labour housing campaigns informed of activity taking place in other areas. We will follow back any local Labour campaign group that - so we can all share information about what is going on!

6 Local media London-wide media may be suitable for some bigger stories that emerge during campaigns (Evening Standard and London radio stations) but it is more likely that local campaigns will make use of local newspapers and possibly freesheets. Local papers tend to like housing stories with a human interest element, so ask people affected by a story if they would be willing to talk to the local press. Contact with local papers is easier if you get to know a key journalist and local councillors may well have the necessary contacts already. London LHG: A campaigning resource Although LLHG is, like most Labour Party organisations, run on a voluntary basis by a small number of activists, we are keen to offer our help and support to local campaigns. We can do this in a number of ways: We offer expert speakers for Party meetings on housing We can comment on local Manifestoes, housing pledges and draft leaflets We will try to help with any technical queries about housing issues and policies We will try to put people in touch with others interested in similar campaign ideas. As we did in the Mayoral campaign, we are also considering preparing some generic housing leaflets which can be printed on local Riso machines. Let us know if you would like us to provide these to you. Tom Copley Chair, London Steve Hilditch Secretary,

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