Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 20 January

Recent figures show that there’s a growing crisis in housing, and I’m not convinced that the government is making the best decisions to tackle it.

ACTION NEEDED ON AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Recent figures show that there’s a growing crisis in housing, and I’m not convinced that the government is making the best decisions to tackle it.

There is very little house building taking place so prices are high for people who want to buy and there aren’t enough affordable homes for people who have to rent.

Not everyone is lucky enough to buy their own home and many do not qualify for housing from the council, so renting from a private landlord is virtually their only option. But huge demand means that private rents are expected to rise by 39 per cent by 2020.

At my surgeries I also hear many horror stories about private landlords, from the lack of repairs to the fear of being thrown out with little notice and of course the age old problem of deposits not returned. I have also dealt with serious cases of anti-social behaviour where private landlords do nothing to keep their tenants in check and allow them to make other people's lives a misery. I think we need stronger rules and regulations in this area that are fair to tenants, landlords and local communities.

I helped get funds for new homes that have been built on Priory Road, the Wrens Nest and in Gornal, but the building of new council houses hasn’t been able to keep pace with growing demand, and waiting lists have gone up by 98 per cent in the last ten years. It isn't the council’s fault – building houses is expensive and they just don't have the cash. The council currently has around 23,000 homes, they need to be looked after and fairly allocated when one comes up to rent. Another government policy - the bedroom tax has caused a lot of upheaval and misery for not much benefit.

The government's help to buy scheme is fuelling demand for first time buyers getting their own home, but it’s pushing up house prices. Average house prices in the West Midlands are now 9 times the average income, making home ownership a fantasy for many local families.

All in all, housing is a minefield at the moment. Families, couples, and single people are all under pressure. That’s why I want the government to make an ambitious commitment to building 200,000 more homes and look at radical plans to achieve that. Right away we could give successful local authorities a ‘right to grow’ and give local councils tools to get houses built on unused land.

TRIPS TO WESTMINSTER

Last Wednesday I welcomed 18 local residents to Westminster.

I know that for many people, Parliament seems a remote place where politicians go to argue with each other and score points. But there is another side to Parliament where MPs do their best to hold the Government to account and represent local people.

I think it’s really important that local people have the opportunity to come to Parliament and see what goes on there for themselves. I think that’s part of being a good MP that listens to local people and fights for local people, and it’s why I regularly organise trips to Westminster and have arranged visits for over 200 people in the last year.

If you’re interested in visiting Parliament, you can let me know by emailing me at austini@parliament.uk or by calling me on 020 7219 8012.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL COMMEMORATION

Every year on 27 January the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day.

It’s a moment to reflect on where prejudice, hatred and racism can lead and it’s an opportunity to dedicate ourselves to doing all we can to oppose them.

I am again organising a commemoration service in Dudley and this year we have the honour of being joined by Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich who was the only member of her family to survive the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp together with her brother.

We will also have contributions from local faith and civic leaders including the Deputy Mayor, as well as local school children who have visited Auschwitz through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ programme.

It’s always a very moving and dignified service, which as well as honouring those who died, remembers the contribution of local and national heroes such as Frank Foley.

It will take place at Dudley College’s Broadway campus between 12:30 and 1:30pm on Friday 24 January. The event is open to all and I hope as many local people as possible will attend. Contact me on 01384 342 504 or austini@parliament.uk to reserve a place.

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