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City Housing Chief welcomes Labour plans to tackle housing affordability crisis

Councillor Kevin Price, the Labour-run City Council’s Housing Chief, has welcomed the plans announced by Emma Reynolds, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister, to change the coalition’s affordable housing grant programme and force developers to open their books for viability assessments on new developments. Ms Reynolds cited Cambridge as an example in her speech on how linking rents in the social sector to market rents is driving the affordability crisis in many areas.

Councillor Price said: “I have met Emma Reynolds several times to discuss how the current government’s affordable rent programme is causing real problems in Cambridge. Social rents were historically linked to wages and local house prices but the current affordable rent grant programme links them instead to private sector rents which are rising much faster than wages. It’s the main reason why we have been trying to avoid using grant to build new council homes as rents even for new two-bed homes are becoming unaffordable for low-income families. It’s good news locally for Cambridge that the Labour leadership is listening and will act if elected next week and it’s good news nationally as it will bring down the Housing Benefit bill which has soared under the affordable rent programme.”

Councillor Price added: “We now also have firm commitments from Labour to reverse the planning changes in the last five years which have allowed developers to get off their own affordable housing obligations, including the exemption for small sites which are so important in Cambridge. Developers have the chance to raise viability when they submit an application but under the proposed changes they will now have to open their books fully and once the application is decided they can’t use a planning appeal to back out of their obligations.”

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