2 Nov 2011

Housing timebomb in Stroud

Here's my letter to the local press earlier this week...

Dear Madam/Sir,

We are facing a growing and deeply shocking housing crisis of monstrous proportions. Despite the best efforts of Stroud District Council to support those who have a difficulty, central government are sleepwalking, no running, into a housing timebomb.

The challenge is immense yet our Government is weakening council tenancies, cutting housing benefit and raising social rents. In Stroud, homelessness applications and acceptances are up 45% on the last 4 years. Over 3,000 households are now on the District's housing waiting list. The crisis is growing across the country. Shelter's new research has found average private rents are beyond the reach of ordinary working families in 55% of English authorities. Their research also showed 38% of families with children who rent privately have cut back on buying food to help pay rent.

Average rent has risen to £890 a month; 46 per cent of the typical tenant's net income. In Stroud only 14% of the private rented sector properties are deemed to be in an affordable range for housing benefit purposes. While the average age for a first-time buyer for anyone without parental help for a deposit is now 37! Cameron plans only 170,000 affordable homes over five years. The backlog of demand will grow.

It is crazy for our government to rely on the market for answers. The market just doesn't ensure supply meets demand - in good or bad times. Our government argues restrictive planning laws are to blame, but developers are already sitting on prime land with planning permission for at least 300,000 homes, waiting for prices to rise. This is little to do with planning and many of us fear the changes proposed by Tory donors will lead to a developers' charter.

45 years ago the nation was shocked by Cathy Come Home, the story of a young couple who descended into increasingly squalid homes until they lost their children to care. Today our government cuts housing benefit without offering any other social option. I hope they wake before we have to re-learn the Cathy Come Home lesson.

Cllr Philip Booth, Stroud District councillor for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe ward (Green Party)

See previous blog re planning law changes here and how development is proposed to happen locally here.

1 comment:

between-the-lines said...

The most recent Private Eye reports that private rents in London have already risen by double digits since the housing benefit cap was brought in, so it's obvious that the government's policy is not working as claimed.

There are hundreds of thousands of properties in the UK being left to rot by their owners while other people are left homeless or in inadequate accommodation.

How can we get genuine policies that will open these wasted properties to those who really need them?