One of the best aspects of being a political candidate is that I regularly knock on constituents’ doors to canvass for support.
It’s a chance to discuss local issues and is an excellent measure of public opinion.
In recent months, however, this usually light-hearted exchange has taken a darker turn. It’s distressingly clear that rapidly-escalating housing costs are hitting local people hard, even in some of our more affluent areas.
And those who aren’t suffering mortgage misery because of high interest rates or spiralling rents are being hit by the fact the banks and building societies are failing to pass on these same rates to savers.
This week I was prompted to write to our local MP urging him to use his powerful position as chancellor to prevent more people from losing their homes.
It is high time he intervened to force the banks and building societies to allow people in need to switch to interest-only mortgage payments or to extend their repayment period, as the Labour Party has advocated.
This simple intervention could alleviate the acute stress many are suffering, particularly when faced with all the other cost-of-living challenges such as above-inflation rises in energy and food bills.
I also asked him to demand that his colleague Michael Gove accelerates the plans for reforming the broken rented market.
The long-awaited Renters Reform Bill was delayed again earlier this year. Yet the cost of renting is now at its highest levels since comparable records began, with 12 per cent annual inflation, and no-fault evictions are at a six-year high.
Gove’s legislation has been promised for four years, so to procrastinate further is disastrous when national figures show a household are losing their rented home every 15 minutes on average.
Taking a longer-term perspective, it is time to restart house building in this country.
We need to prevent developers sitting on parcels of land indefinitely in pursuit of greater and greater profits, such as at the Farnham Woolmead site.
The consequence of this market failure is a shortage of housing which means we’re all forced to borrow more than we can afford, and rents that increase for the same reason.
This is another area where Labour has a sensible remedy, offering local authorities the power to compulsorily purchase land without paying a premium to the speculators.
It is really time for our MP to cast party-political considerations aside and to consider these measures.
We urgently need reform in the housing market in Surrey, as in the rest of the country.
As it stands, our children cannot afford to live in this area, and neither can lower-paid workers, particularly the public sector and care staff that our ageing population increasingly relies on.
It is a recipe not just for suffering but also for economic decline in this region.
It’s time for change.