So much reconstruction, so little affordable housing

With the borough of Wandsworth constructing unaffordable housing can Labour be residents saving grace in the local elections?

By Isla Russell, journalism student

London is a city of constant regeneration. Buildings are endlessly being torn down only to be built back-up again in more extravagant and costly ways. Wandsworth is just one borough of London currently going through a phase of housing regeneration. But with the promise of luxury housing comes the threat of a luxury price which leads present and future Wandsworth residents wondering, how will they afford their rent?

“I know that in the not too distant future I’ll have to pack myself and the children up and leave our home for good. I just don’t know where we will go”. Joanne Martin has been living on the Patmore Estate in Battersea for nine years. She is a mother of two young children who balances caring for them with working full-time at her local Tesco Metro. Her flat is a mere 10-minute walk away from the Battersea power station where a nine-billion-pound reconstruction of luxury homes and shops is taking place and she fears the repercussions of this distance. “The Battersea Power Station construction is only a few minutes away from us, and you know what’s going on there. It could be our estate they knock down next”.

Wandsworth has been under a conservative local government since 1978 who have over-seen the regeneration work happening in Wandsworth. However, the local elections on May 3rdcould change the Tories nearly 30-year rule.

The Wandsworth labour party have put affordable housing at the forefront of their campaign. Sitting with Simon Hogg, labour MP for Lechmere, it’s obviously something the entire Labour party of Wandsworth is passionate about. Whilst keeping perfect eye contact with me, almost as if he knows I’m skeptical of believing anything a politician has to say when there’s an election going on, he explains to me: “inappropriate housing in Wandsworth has gone way too far. There are too many unaffordable houses being built and I fear that this will cause people to relocate to a different borough of London, or even outside of London”.

A study by job search engine Adzuna found that the average Wandsworth salary is £29,009 a year, and this has gone down 1% every year. In 2017 the average Wandsworth house cost £796,214 to buy and £511 per week to rent. Regeneration will only push these housing prices higher which may result in Wandsworth residents having to leave the borough. But this is not what the labour party wants. Simon tells me: “we [the labour party] really want to give the present and future Wandsworth residents what they want. We want to work with them to provide homes for the community that is affordable, and stop Wandsworth being a soft touch for developers”.

The labour parties plan for affordable housing sounds great in theory but how will it fair in reality? And what will the outcome be for people like Joanne? “I fear it’s already too late for this building, but maybe with labour controlling this borough we may be able to stay for longer”.