Simon Galton

Liberal Democrat County & District Councillor Learn more

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£13 Million = 335 ‘Affordable’ Homes the latest government solution

by simongalton on 24 October, 2008

The latest government solution in meeting housing needs is to promise £13 Million to be used to buy surplus housing stock from developers and convert into affordable/social housing. As an idea this seems fine yet the detail suggests that this money will buy 335 homes across the entire country. Although i welcome any increase to the allocation of affordable housing by government i do wonder if the sentiment is the only positive thing about this.

Locally we have a real need for affordable housing to help people get on the housing ladder, buy equally we need social housing to help those that simply need somewhere to live. As a county councillor i feel that to some extent we need to change our attitude to housing, we need to accept that council houses are needed and we needed to deal with the ones we already have. Across Leicestershire there are approximalty 14,000 empty homes, local districts have powers to develop an ‘Empty homes strategy’ but most couldn’t afford to buy the vacant stock. Government should be supporting local councils in buying this empty stock as an interim measure until more can be built. And we should commit to a coordinated strategy to ensure that all developments have the right mix of houses – not as a selling feature but as right for local people.

My worry is that developers play into our fears about housing by offering a specific percentage of affordable housing – yet we have the capacity to do so much more. The proposed eco-town is sold as a solution to the housing problem (30% will affordable/social property) yet 30% of 15,000 is still significantly less than the total empty homes in the county, and is also less than the 30% of ALL developments the Regional Spatial Strategy calls for. I understand that people worry about the prospects of their children or even their own issues (with negative equity etc), and i beleive local councils should do more to protect all from the worst excesses of the housing bubble bursting and to use this time to rectify the mistakes of the past.

If the chancellor is planning to spend big to protectt our economy – we should at least see some of the money be used locally to ensure that all have access to homes.

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