Many local people have written to me with concerns about the quality of their rented homes. As a mother of two young children, I am particularly concerned with the rise in number of problems with mould and damp families experience. With the average price of a Tooting home over £700,000, raising the standard of rented accommodation is very important.
My guest blogger, Councillor Simon Hogg, shares his thoughts on how to improve the quality of rented accommodation:
I was shocked - but had to admire my landlord’s cunning. I’d asked for double-glazing, as my bed was next to a freezing window on Balham High Road. He simply stretched clingfilm over the window and declared it “DIY double-glazing”.
Like many people in Tooting, I’ve got plenty of stories from my twenties of dodgy rented properties. Around 40% of households in Tooting now rent their homes from a private landlord.
Rosena listens to local people. A quarter of all emails and letters she gets are from people seeking help with housing problems.
We've worked together to push Wandsworth council to focus on this issue. Sadly, the council is not working hard enough to get a fair deal for renters.
For some people, renting is a positive choice. But far too many people have no other option. A council survey found the majority of renters want to buy but believed they would never be able to in our borough. Renters are getting squeezed further by the day. The cost of rent often takes up half of people’s income.
Anna, a teacher, pays £720 a month to share with 5 others in Balham. She says: “I pay more than half my salary on rent. I just don’t have a chance to save any money”. Chelsea in her twenties, pays £700 a month rent for a flat-share in Clapham. “I spend so much on rent I feel as if I am living in poverty.”
We need improved conditions for renters. Unfortunately, robust action on rogue landlords is not taken. The Wandsworth Labour Group asked the council how many times they had prosecuted a landlord for providing unsafe accommodation in last year. The answer was zero.
This lack of action was shown most recently in the Investing Solutions scandal. This is the Wandsworth-based letting agency that took £5.5million in housing benefit from a charity which housed the homeless. £2.1m of that was paid by Wandsworth council. Crisis, the housing charity, described the arrangement as “a new low”.
Several of their properties – used to house vulnerable people – were unsuitable, due to lack of heating and hot water, rats and damp. The BBC reports the company earned £11,568 profit per year from one property alone.The council said no further investigation is required because it’s not illegal. Well, it may not be illegal – but it’s wrong.
Private renting is insecure, as well as expensive. Zeeshan, in Wallis Close, was paying three times the rent to a private landlord as the council tenant pays next door. This was actually 5 years ago. He asked me about homeownership schemes “I want a home for my family so I can have peace of mind”. He had a child. Then his rent went up, he started working two jobs.
A couple of years ago I was watching cricket at his house when he said he’d received an eviction notice from his landlord. His wife was pregnant again. Wandsworth council accepted him as homeless. Last year the council placed him in temporary accommodation in Thornton Heath, 5 miles away. “It takes around one and a half hour to drop children at school in the morning.” It’s taking a dreadful toll on his wife and children.
Recently – as its one and only offer– the council showed him a private rented property out in Croydon. Even further from his life. Zeeshan was just a regular suburban dad – and there are hundreds of others like him. People who work hard and play by the rules are leaving the area.
If we don’t give a fair deal to renters, we feed the homelessness crisis. 1,300 local families spent last night homeless in Wandsworth council temporary accommodation. The number one cause of homelessness in our borough is now the private rented sector.
We should stand up for renters. Listen to their experiences and support them.
As a first step, a Labour council would improve inspections, offer help with tenancy deposits, introduce licensing for landlords and encourage longer contracts for families.
Longer-term, we need to tackle our homelessness crisis and build more genuinely affordable homes.
There is a housing crisis across London and Tooting has been hit hard. As property prices in the constituency continue to climb, so does the number of people renting their homes. I am a renter myself and fully appreciate the issue of rising rents, so pushing for more homes to be built where rents are capped is a priority. I am also working closely with the Mayor of London to build genuinely affordable homes in Tooting, so that more residents have the opportunity to own their own home.
My guest writer, Tooting Councillor Paul White, shares his thoughts on affordable housing:
We are very lucky to be living in a place like Tooting, especially at this current time. With every passing month, another new business opens and makes Tooting an even more vibrant place to live.
As Tooting becomes more successful, the proximity to Central London becomes more popular, so does the demand for affordable properties to rent and buy.
London is facing a huge housing crisis; there are not enough homes to go around. There has been a failure over the last 30 years to build real genuinely affordable homes to meet demand.
As demand for homes has grown, the supply has not. Rents have risen, despite people’s incomes remaining stable. Four in ten Tooting Ward residents are private renters, while two in ten are council or housing association tenants. Currently, it costs on average, £1,900 to rent a two bedroom flat in Wandsworth. Our MP, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, rents in the constituency and therefore understands the trouble facing so many of our residents.
Recently I supported a local family in court, their landlord had sought to evict them unlawfully, an all too common problem in Wandsworth. Some landlords have been known to raise rents high enough to push families out - over 2,300 children in Wandsworth are now without a home.
Over the past four decades, Wandsworth Council has sold off 25,000 council homes. There is nothing wrong with tenants being given the opportunity to by their council home, so long as they are replaced for the next generation. This is where the council have failed, we see this more than ever where we have a shortfall of over 10,000 social homes over the last 25 years.
Of the 25,000 council homes sold in Wandsworth, 9,000 of these are now in private hands, being rented privately at three times the rent of social homes.
We need to start building genuinely affordable homes. As supply rises, the price of rent will fall and genuine affordability can be attained. Too many people who are born and bred Tooting, are being priced out.
When we are building, we need to build good quality, genuinely affordable homes. Good quality materials must be used, they must be sustainable, ensuring they meet the right green energy targets, with adequate green space for occupants. Where needed, local infrastructure preserved so that we build proper communities, with proper amenities. The buildings must be harmonious with the current environment and be served well by public transport, with every effort made to encourage cycling and walking, so limiting environmental impacts.
It has been excellent to see our local MP, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan meeting with residents, local housing associations and others to ensure all of this will be addressed in Tooting. Further to this, the London Plan put forward by the Mayor of London will maintain Tooting and Wandsworth’s unique appeal, so to ensure that our home is a place where all can feel at ease, with the knowledge they have a good quality, affordable home that does not impact the planet unduly.
Building affordable homes is crucial, without doing so, Tooting risks losing the charm and vibrancy we can see today.
- Cllr Paul White
As the redevelopment of the historic Brewery site in Wandsworth gets underway, I was shocked to hear the decision to name the planned apartment building after Sir Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe. Verdon Row was a member of the British Union of Fascists, the organisation led by Oswald Mosley.
Although it has been stated that the choice to name the development after Verdon Roe stems from his work in British aviation, it is without a doubt that we must not tolerate or reward any expression of anti-Semitism in our society.
In Wandsworth, we pride ourselves on having a diverse and cohesive community, and I will continue to strive to ensure all Tooting residents are respected and protected.
Read the Jewish Chronicle’s coverage in full here: https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/verdon-roe-1.434110
Whether I’m catching up on BBC iPlayer, my husband watching Netflix or my children watching cartoons on YouTube - I know the pain when it’s constantly buffering. We live in the fifth largest economy in the world, our social and works lives work so smoothly because of the devices and gadgets that we use.
But as we get more technologically advanced, so does the need for better internet.
This week, new data was published on broadband coverage across the UK. The data showed that the average download speed across Tooting is below the UK average. Out of 650 areas in the UK, we sit well below even the average - when we should be leading the way.
The new data also showed the quality of broadband available varies dramatically between areas. The areas most affected by slow broadband speeds are Earlsfield, Furzedown and Wandsworth Common. A number of Isis Street residents in Earlsfield have written to me expressing their frustrations and I took action, finally getting BT to agree to giving them fibre broadband.
If you take the average broadband speed across the UK (11.2 Mb/s), Earlsfield and Furzedown are a third slower, much lower than countries including Rwanda and Saudi Arabia. As these speeds are averages, it is safe to assume that residents are at times experiencing even lower broadband speed.
Many home offices as well as modern home entertainment options are dependent on a fast and reliable internet; a connection of 40Mb/s or more is recommended if you watch Netflix, stream videos on YouTube or Facebook and have multiple devices and users in your home. If you have been affected by slow broadband speeds in Tooting, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is Be Bold For Change, and this year I celebrated it three times.
I met first with Sixth Form students from Burntwood School and Ernest Bevin College in order to explore their experiences and how we can work together to make change happen. We were lucky enough to be joined by Nekoda Davis, who won a gold medal in judo at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and represented Team GB at the Olympics in Rio.
Then, I sat on a panel for a ‘Challenge and Change’ event, where we discussed how important professional development is in empowering more female leaders to progress. Many present discussed their negative experiences of returning to work following maternity leave; as a mother to two young children myself, I sympathise deeply. I also spoke to Vana Koutsomitis, The Apprentice runner-up 2015, about the challenges she has faced as a woman in business.
We are so fortunate in Tooting to have so many businesses, charities and other organisations run by women. For a final celebration, I invited 50 of these inspirational women from across the constituency to Parliament where we discussed what it means to be a female leader. We also heard from two great woman MPs Dawn Butler and Sarah Champion about their experiences climbing up in a male-dominated profession.