Housing and Planning Bill

WRITTEN EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY IROKO HOUSING CO-OP (HPB 65)

PURPOSE OF SUBMISSION

To present the opinion of Iroko Housing Co-op re. the Housing and Planning Bill to the Public Bill Committee

SUMMARY

1. Who we are.

2. Average key workers salaries at threshold. Dual income also. Trigger

exodus from London.

3. Pay-to-Stay a threat to family.

4. Pay-to-Stay a disincentive to work

5. Pay-to-Stay will discriminate against women

6. Administration of policy will fracture community.

7. Refutation of ‘subsidised rent’

SUBMISSION POINTS

1. IROKO is an independent co-op consisting of 59 units housing approximately 160 people in accommodation ranging from 35 x 5 bedroom family houses to studio apartments. We are a mixed community in terms of age,race, gender, sexual orientation and physical ability. Each member is expected to participate in the running of the co-op to the level of their ability. This free labour allows us to keep rents low. Co-op living is a long-term commitment to community and place.

2. To develop the skills necessary for the successful and smooth running of a co-op takes time, practice and commitment. Many of our most capable and committed members will be affected by the income threshold for Pay-to-Stay, particularly dual-income families. As the threshold is relatively low for two earners we would expect a continuously high turnover of new tenants as a result of the proposed legislation. Average key-worker salaries would trigger Pay-to-Stay. Young teachers and nurses on leaving University start at around £20000 pa. Recent advertisements for Band 6 NHS jobs, average level midwives or nurses, quoted salaries from £32000 to £41000. Two of these in one household would exceed the proposed limit. However, their combined salaries would not get a mortgage in central London. Children would make finances tighter. Such workers will have to move outside London. But if a hospital outside the capitol has available employment there is no incentive to pay high train fares to travel in to the city. Many teachers earn above the £40000 threshold. A single parent teacher would be forced to leave the city for affordable accommodation. Among our tenants are nurses, teachers, care assistants, charity and public services/transport workers. This policy will damage the work force and the community.

3. A substantial number of likely affected families consist of three generations born in Waterloo. They have lived here since the beginning of this co-op almost 15 years ago. Instead of a grandparent living alone or in care, they live with their family. Where two incomes breach the threshold, these families will be forced out. These people and all our longtime residents are the backbone of our community and their knowledge experience and skills in the running of this co-op will be lost, impossible to replace within a more transient community. If we have to pay for work currently done by volunteers, our rents will have to rise accordingly. Pay-to-Stay is a serious threat to the ethos efficacy and viability of co-op housing.

3. On this estate we conclude that Pay-to-Stay will be a threat to family. A household with grandparent, two earning parents and three children will either be forced out at the income threshold and have to apply to the Local Authority for housing, rents in London for this size household being unaffordable, or they may decide that in order to keep their home one or both should stop working and instead claim Housing Benefit. We expect Housing Benefit applications to increase substantially. Most people will do what they have to do to keep their home.

Right to Buy would also seriously injure Co-ops when sold on in time to buy-to-let landlords. There is little incentive for either landlords or their tenants to commit their time and energy to co-op participation. This disparity between Co-op members and owners or tenants of owners will erode the principals of co-operative housing. We are concerned that the voluntary arrangement concerning Right-to-Buy means that this exemption could be re-opened. We would ask therefor that the exemption be included in the Amendment.

4. We can only see Pay-to-Stay as a disincentive to work, which is against the declared ambition of the current government. A working couple with family, on reaching the trigger income threshold, could be better off if the partner with the lower income stopped working. As women are usually the lower earners in dual households this will discriminate against women.

6. Iroko is a successful example of a working co-op, a secure and balanced environment. With Pay-to-Stay some members will have to pay more for exactly the same as their neighbours. To administer Pay-to-Stay, members on the Finance committee will presumably need to know the incomes of their fellows in order to implement new legislation. We foresee tensions arising where we have up to now had accord. We also have a proportion of self-employed, where incomes fluctuate. It is unlikely any of our members will want to volunteer for a Management Committee which will require them to implement sanctions or interrogate neighbours. This would have the potential to fatally damage our community. It is in direct opposition to the ideals and ethos of a housing co-operative.

7. Iroko is a Fully Mutual Housing Co-operative. Shares are allocated to and bought by members. This constitutes property ownership. We would question the legality of the government telling owners what rent to apply. Our homes are not ‘subsidised rents’ as has been recently stated. Our rents are low precisely because our community co-operates to run the organisation voluntarily, without payment and regardless of hours.

AMENDMENT SUGGESTED

We would ask that an Amendment be drawn up that excludes Pay-to-Stay and Right-to-Buy for Fully Mutual Co-ops. Our reasons are listed above. We are deeply concerned that these provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill, if implemented, will destroy our housing co-ops, our communities and our homes.

November 2015

Prepared 24th November 2015