The Conservatives need to get out of the pockets of property speculators and rogue landlords and, instead, to back local people and those without a home to call their own.
There is a housing crisis in Babergh; there simply aren’t enough homes for our young people. But it’s not that there aren’t enough houses being built, it’s just that these houses are snapped up by investors to let out at extortionate rents.
Their market is wealthy folk wanting a second or third home or commuters seeking to move away from London. I’m not saying those people aren’t welcome but they compound and exacerbate an existing housing crisis. What about housing the next generation of local people?
The housing waiting list is just short of the thousand mark and homelessness is a regular occurrence even in a fairly affluent area like Babergh. The average age for a person moving out of their parents house is now nearing 40. That’s an outrage.
The fact is, so called affordable housing isn’t affordable for local people and council houses just aren’t being built. It’s not about building lots of housing, it’s about building the right housing that local people, the next generation of Babergh residents, can afford to buy or rent. We wouldn’t need mass developments if our smaller developments were built for the needs of local people, not just investors and the already wealthy.
It’s not about being a nimby; we need a balanced and reasonable approach to housing that works alongside parish councils and local residents to identify the best location to provide housing for local needs and a more moderate influx of investors and commuters. Rather than giving developers a free for all, let communities play a bigger role in identifying the land to meet their needs.
One key, reasonable approach would be if every ward in Babergh built ten council homes. Babergh could work with the parish councils to identify the land and the District Council would have a solid income for years to come. Each ward would hardly notice ten new homes, particularly if they were in a good location, but it would halve the waiting list, provide quality homes for local families and share the responsibility of building housing fairly across the district.
It would also mean less demand for the private rental market and may even drive private rents down. Small, specific developments, meeting the needs of local people with communities playing a role in the planning, is the key. The process needs to start from the point of meeting the housing needs of the many, not making big profits for the few.
The District Council should also buy up empty houses and buildings and put them to good use as housing for families.
The change of pace for communities can be so swift it makes people uncomfortable. If we can apply development moderately and fairly across the district in locations local people have chosen, we could nullify the changes and reduce the impact upon community heritage and character.
It’s important that the investment in infrastructure and services properly reflect any developments and that the environment is given every possible protection. Unfortunately, due to austerity, most towns and villages in Babergh would struggle to provide the infrastructure or services to deal with any large growth. Build more and the infrastructure will follow is what they say, yet somehow, it never catches up.
The next Labour government will give security to tenants, control rents and build new council homes as well as providing government backed mortgages for first time buyers. One thing is clear; there’s a housing crisis leaving many without homes of their own, communities are being overwhelmed with large developments and the infrastructure is not keeping pace. Only the investors and developers are coming away happy with the whole process.