Rumal Khan, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North writes about housing issues, particularly in areas such as North End and Paulsgrove.
There are many things I find worrying about the housing situation in Portsmouth as it stands under a Conservative government.
I worry because the rush to make a profit by those who want to exploit the housing market is making it increasingly difficult for many Portsmouth families to find a permanent home to live in: a home which they can afford and in an environment which is healthy and safe for their children to grow up in.
I am concerned about the number of Houses in Multiple Occupation, (HMOs), springing up in the city. Large companies are buying up properties in unsuitable residential locations, where housing should be for families and permanent residents.
In the South of the city these companies are converting houses for students and charging high rents which ultimately puts the cost of private rental up for everyone, and in Portsmouth North, large companies are converting houses and buildings which used to be offices, shops and public houses and turning them into small, often cramped units and are again charging high rents for the area.
None of this helps Portsmouth families urgently looking for somewhere to rent that they can afford, or that they will be able to call a real home.
Then there is the problem of companies buying up land to build houses and flats, without thought for the surrounding area and its occupants. In North End, already a highly-populated area, with many of the older houses turned into flats or HMOs, there are proposals for the redevelopment of the rear of the former Odeon Cinema. 15 homes are planned, some quite large, with 23 car parking spaces between them, plus access will be required from neighbouring Laburnum Grove, potentially taking away already hard-to-find parking space. This is in a very crowded area where traffic fumes pollute the air while people search endlessly to find somewhere to park their car while they do their shopping.
In other areas of Portsmouth North, particularly Paulsgrove, properties are lying empty while young families who grew up in the area would love to rent a place near their parents. With people desperate for somewhere decent to live, just one house lying empty is a terrible thing. With nearly 100 people on the housing waiting list, it’s a tragedy.
This hasn’t been helped, of course, by the selling off of council property since the Thatcher years. Nowadays, with so few families being able to afford a mortgage, it is more likely that an ex council house will be sold on to a property company to rent at a high price, than to a family wanting to live in the area.
But the irony is that, despite the buying up of land and older property by developers and rental companies, there are simply not enough real affordable homes for families in Portsmouth.
Far too many luxury flats and houses that most people can’t afford are being developed instead. Each new site is supposed to contain a certain number of homes that people on low incomes can afford. Local planning policies say so, but the results do not appear to bear that out.
Portsmouth urgently needs affordable homes to buy and rent and Portsmouth people need a Labour Government to ensure that they get them.