Moving the Housing Market Reform Bill, Gareth stated that for far too many people, the housing market is not working. Not enough homes are being built at a price that is within reach in many areas of the UK, particularly in London. Indeed London is in danger of having a housing market that has priced out those who live and work in the city. It is already virtually impossible to envisage that someone on average earnings could afford to buy a property within the Circle line area and to live in it.
Gareth cited the example of Westminster, where average earnings were almost £43,000 last year, while average house prices pushed close to £800,000—a ratio of price to earnings of 18:1. The suburbs of London are heading in the same direction as house prices continue to creep up. In Harrow average earnings last year were £30,000, while the average house price was £309,000—10 times average earnings.
Among a range of needed reforms the Bill places a duty on the Homes and Communities Agency and local authorities with housing and planning responsibilities to promote co-operative and mutual housing options and report annually in this regard. It encourages councils to promote co-op housing to again help those who can’t afford to buy. Co-op housing has for too long been a forgotten option for housing authorities and this measure could help to change the incentives so that, as in Sweden, Norway and Germany, co-operative housing options are given proper consideration.
Gareth said: “This is an important step towards developing a housing market which works for ordinary families – it is clear that co-operative housing has a vital role to play in achieving this.”
This Bill adds to the work of fellow Co-operative MP Jonathan Reynolds’ proposed Bill the ‘Co-operative Housing Tenure Bill’. Together these legislative measures offer the Government real proposals which will help co-operative housing solutions to this country’s growing housing crisis.