Thursday, 10 December 2015

Why is Shepherd's Bush Public Housing To Be Privatised By Our Local Council?

Public housing in Shepherd's Bush. Not for long?
Sometimes politics can be very confusing.  LBHF is about to give council housing tenants a vote on whether or not to "pass the ownership of all of its 17,000 homes to council housing residents by setting up a new housing organisation".

But what does this mean, exactly? And why is a Labour-controlled council wanting to privatise public housing?

What's this about?
According to LBHF's newsletter: at a Cabinet meeting on 7 December, Hammersmith & Fulham Council voted to "back the recommendation of the Independent Residents’ Commission on Council Housing".

The Council "will now give residents a vote on whether or not to pass the ownership of all of its 17,000 homes to council housing residents by setting up a new housing organisation."

What does that mean?
It means the Council wants to transfer ownership of all the Council housing in the Borough to Housing Associations. In other words, subject to a vote among council tenants, our local public housing would no longer be publicly owned.  It would be owned by a private body, a housing association, instead of remaining in public ownership.

But why does Labour want to privatise public housing? Isn't privatisation what the Tories do?
That's a good question.  The Council say that the reason for this move is that: "homes would be better maintained, better protected with lower rents and charges if we move to a new housing model that gives more power to residents.” 

And, further: "the Council may struggle to raise the money needed to adequately repair and maintain council homes, whereas a new resident-led housing association should be able to secure the investment needed."

Which sounds a bit weird. After all, it's a difficult trick to offer lower rents, while also finding extra money to increase investment. How can a Housing Association do this if the Council can't?

Are there any other reasons?
Maybe. Tory Councillor Harry Phibbs thinks that the Council have a very different agenda.  He suggests that "Labour’s idea is to permanently block estate redevelopment – regardless of the outcome of future council elections", and that they are "quite brazen about that being their motive".

In other words, if this is right, then the current plan is all about stopping the Tories - should they get control of the Council again - from selling off public housing and replacing it with posh flats.  If this is true, then this proposal is not really about housing at all, it's all about votes.

Will it work?
That is hard to say. Our government has promised to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants - suggesting that even if housing is privately owned, it's not off-limits from Government intervention. Which is also odd, coming from a party which has traditionally championed private property rights.

Sometimes politics feels like a topsy-turvy world.


The Bush Telegraph offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story about our neighbourhood, email us at shepherdsbushblog(at)

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