Is enough being done for Social Housing?
By Ed Waite
The housing crisis in Britain is an emergency. House prices are high, especially for first time buyers. For many people, rents are unaffordable.
Sevenoaks District Council admits that its planning and housing finance have failed to deliver affordable housing targets for years. Social housing providers can't build homes for rent closer than Ashford, thanks to high land prices. Many who work in Sevenoaks can't afford to live here.
A new local plan for up to 14,000 extra homes in Sevenoaks District is out for consultation. It includes ideas for more money for affordable housing.
But it reduces the affordable homes target, which shows where the Council's priorites lie. And 'affordable housing contributions' levied on new developments will depend on 'viability' of schemes - an invitation for developers to put higher prices on their land and wriggle out of paying.
Liberal Democrats will not let developers off affordable housing payments. To build balanced communities we need a balance of social housing, private and owned homes. That needs councils to be tougher, and changes in the law.
The big hole in social housing is because councils have lost powers to build. We want to lift the borrowing cap on local authorities and increase borrowing capacity of Housing Associations so they can both build more social housing.
Alongside this we want to see 'Rent to Own' tenancies. Rent payments would give people an increasing stake in their home, owning it outright after 30 years. This will build balanced communities.
As City AM said last week "Almost every Tory housing-related policy has done more to boost demand than supply. Help to Buy, the complex Lifetime ISA and other initiatives tangle further an already tangled mess."
It's time for new approaches, and choices that work.
Ed Waite is a Sevenoaks Town Councillor