Meg Hillier: “I want to see action on affordable housing”

Meg Hillier / Housing in Hackney

London’s housing is in crisis and Hackney is the epicentre, writes MP Meg Hillier in a comment piece for the Hackney Post. 

In my borough more people rent privately than own their property, while the majority rent from a council or housing association.

Those who rent privately are spending more than half their wages on rent, whilst prices over the last decade have increased by nearly 125 per cent.

Aside from those who own their home everyone else is caught in a trap. Potential purchasers are priced out, private tenants are seeing rents escalate (and many now sharing rooms with strangers), and even social housing rents are difficult for those on the lowest wages.

Which is why I want to see action on affordable housing.

Meg Hillier
Meg Hillier (Picture from

Hackney Council is one of the top councils in the country for building more affordable homes for rent. In its pipeline of 3000 new homes, half will be for affordable rent. And to his great credit Hackney’s elected Mayor has rightly rejected the new Boris Johnson consensus that 80 per cent of local private market rents is affordable. Hackney is also leading the way with a 10 step programme for reform of the private rented sector – suggesting some simple and reasonable measures to improve tenant safety and security of tenure that no reasonable landlord who is serious about the business they’re in should object to.

READ MORE: Hackney’s housing crisis – 1,500 in overcrowded conditions

My own front bench is pushing for longer term tenancies (something which the Council for Mortgage Lenders told me last week is an open door as far as its members are concerned) and rent deals between tenants and landlords. I welcome these measures but would like to see Labour nationally take Hackney’s lead and go further.

As a busy inner London MP I see too many people in uncertain or inadequate housing. When knocking on doors I see the £million plus property, but I see the mother and daughter, sharing a room, and a bed, in a private rented property, worried about rent increases.

Gascoyne Estate in Homerton
Gascoyne Estate in Homerton (Photo: Flickr/sarflondondunc)

I strongly believe that a stable home is the basis for a stable life – a job, family stability and community cohesion.

I am asking local residents to set out their costs against their income. We need to tell Government what living costs really mean for Londoners.

READ MORE: Hackney’s homeless forced to move cross country

The fact that many so called affordable homes are out of reach of working Londoners shows that the affordability “criteria” are a long way removed from reality. The notion of affordable has moved from an income ratio to one focused on market rents. This is nonsense. In my part of London the rise in house prices and private rents have no benefit to the struggling nurse, shop worker or even young professionals.

Without a serious mission to tackle the question of what affordable means we will only see matters get worse.

At this election, all parties are making pledges to build. This has to be part of the answer. We also need reform of the private rented sector, as my party is promising, but unless we have a serious, realistic discussion about affordability across both private and social sectors we’ll still see people unable to pay their rent.

Meg Hillier is the MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch.