In response to the Government’s White Paper on Housing, John Healey – Shadow Secretary for Housing – said, “so if Theresa May wants to meet her pledges to the country, and to ‘just about managing families’ in particular, a big part of the answer is simple – let councils build more homes, as Labour has said.

And the simple way to do so is to remove the unwarranted restriction on councils’ capacity to do what private developers do in their position, and borrow to build. It’s what all councils do successfully and sensibly for capital investments other than housing. And it’s what the Chancellor conceded makes sense for the country in general in the recent Autumn Statement, when he said that funding infrastructure “from additional borrowing …is the responsible way to secure our economy for the long term”.

John Healey MP: Theresa May should use housing white paper to build more council homes 3rd February 2017

The Government may want to build 1 million new homes by 2020, but leaving it up to private investors to build the homes often leads to inappropriate luxury housing where what we need is truly affordable housing relative to the median average local income. Leaving it up to developers has meant that there is always a shortfall.

The National Housing Federation estimated 974,000 homes were needed between 2011 and 2014. But figures from 326 councils showed only 457,490 were built.

BBC 21st February 2017 ‘Million’ new homes aim declared by minister Brandon Lewis.

A story relayed to me was of someone in our area getting an ‘affordable home’ in Penryn under an Affordable Home scheme. For this he needed a 5-10% deposit, which he had. He also has a very good well-paid job and an expensive car.

The average house price in Penryn is over £200,000. Average wages are well below £20k, take-home between £1,300 and £1,400. The cheapest 2-bed house or flat is between £600 and £750, bills, council tax. Saving for a deposit, well, unlikely. Just take a look at the Department of Communities & Local Government Index of Multiple Deprivation map and zoom in on Penryn & Falmouth. Affordable home schemes are denied to the majority, we should stop suggesting they solve the housing crisis – crippling rents and short-term tenancies, housing insecurity.

As Healey suggest, enabling Councils to build more Council houses, would provide security and true affordability. We have seen in the last 40 years’ experience, its’ not in the economic interests of the big house builders to build what we actually need as a society.

Kate Thomas, Truro & Falmouth CLP

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