Councillor Kevin Price, the Labour-run City Council’s Housing Chief, has said that the Tory plans to extend Right to Buy to housing associations may mean the loss of more than two-thirds of council homes in Cambridge.
Councillor Price said: “The Tories plan to pay for this by forcing councils to sell off their own stock but have clearly not looked at the impact in high priced areas like Cambridge. Cambridge’s housing crisis has meant that even the value of council homes has gone up faster than comparative houses in other parts of the region. The Tories are proposing that any home above a set regional value will have to be sold when it is re-let.
“We estimate that this policy would mean up to 70% of our council general stock would have to be sold rather than re-let to families on our waiting lists. These are normal council houses, flats and bungalows in areas like Kings Hedges, Abbey and East Chesterton not large mansions in well off suburbs. That’s around 4500 homes lost for ever to the council, including most of our 2, 3 and 4 bedroom homes at a rate of about 250 homes forced onto the market every year. We also know that if sold on the open market a high number of these will simply end up as buy to let with higher rents and insecure tenancies.
“This is nothing short of a disaster for Cambridge and a disaster for our waiting lists. It will be impossible to replace the number of council homes lost in the city itself which will mean low income families are forced to move away from Cambridge. Combined with the impact that increasing the Right to Buy discount for council tenants in April 2012 has already had on our stock, the City Council will struggle to continue at all as a social landlord. Housing associations have already threatened legal action and if this Tory policy is actually implemented we will have no choice ourselves but to fight it in the courts to protect the interests of the council and our residents.”
Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State responsible for housing and local government, Hilary Benn MP has visited Cambridge to see new council homes being built in the city.
Mr Benn has announced plans to devolve £30 billion of central government funding currently spent on housing, transport, business support, employment and adult skills.
Mr Zeichner says that Cambridge is ideally placed to prosper from Labour’s plans:
“The current City Deal is a watered-down version of the original much bigger offer. Labour will give cities like Cambridge the resources we need to tackle the huge housing, transport and skills challenges that put our future success at risk. Too many young people in Cambridge are priced out of local housing – we will show Mr Benn that the Labour council has made a start, but there is so much more to do.”
Cllr Kevin Price added: "Housing is top of our agenda for the City Council as the affordability crisis is driven by the lack of supply, especially in social housing. That's why we are planning to build hundreds of new council homes over the next few years as part of our Cambridge Social Rent programme."
Councillor Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing on Labour-run Cambridge City Council, has said that changes to national planning policy by the Conservative Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles will be a disaster for Cambridge.
The Department for Communities and Local Government announced on 28 November that it would remove the ability of councils to ask for affordable housing contributions on development sites of less than 10 units.
Councillor Price said: "The biggest challenge facing Cambridge is to provide housing to meet the needs of all its residents. We simply cannot do that unless developers pay their fair share to ensure those who cannot afford to buy in Cambridge's overheated market are not left out in the cold. This diktat from Whitehall won't mean house prices go down for those buying but simply that developer profits will increase at the cost of those on the housing waiting list.
"It is especially galling because last year the Labour Group managed to ensure that under the draft Local Plan all developments would contribute something. Cambridge is a compact city so small sites play a key role in delivering new homes. Our own research has shown that small sites can return the same percentage of profit to developers as larger sites so size is not an issue.
"Once again this Liberal Democrat and Tory coalition have turned their back on anyone who cannot afford to buy a home which is rapidly becoming the majority of Cambridge residents. Our efforts to tackle this have been undermined by the huge increase in the Right to Buy discount, reducing the grant for building social homes to its lowest level ever, and preventing us from borrowing enough to invest in building in large numbers ourselves and now by even denying us the ability to negotiate with developers on an even footing. Parts of the Local Plan will now even have to be reworked in the middle of its examination."