25 June 2015, The Tablet

Right-to-buy could result in 'monochrome neighbourhoods'

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has attacked proposals to sell off social housing, warning that pricing Londoners out of their neighbourhoods is immoral.

The Archbishop of Westminster was speaking at Our Lady and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Poplar, east London, at an event to launch the papal encyclical Laudato si’.

Asked whether he agreed with the Pope’s concerns about urban planning expressed in that encyclical, Cardinal Nichols said it was important to resist those who wanted to “completely deregulate” the housing market.

He warned that proposals with regard to housing trusts – which include the Government’s extension of the right-to-buy scheme to some 1.3 million families in social housing association properties – needed “much greater thought”.

Cardinal Nichols warned that in those parts of London where housing trust properties have been sold off housing costs soared and priced out residents and their families.

“The neighbourhood becomes monochrome – that’s not even good for the housing industry, never mind the communal quality of the city,” he warned.

Standing on the roof of the school, which is in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, with his back to the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, Cardinal Nichols pointed to the social housing that flanks the property as an illustration of the potential damage that could be done to London neighbourhoods.

Earlier this year a report by the London Assembly’s Labour group found that half of the former council homes sold in Tower Hamlets are now being let by landlords in the private sector.

“These are council properties, if these are to be sold off because of access to the City all the people who live here would be shifted out, they would be way, way out of the price range, and I think that would be wrong.”

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