In my opinion: Why don't they speed up building of affordable homes?
The Government has outlined part of its policy for the next two years, including on housing. The aim is to help families who cannot raise a deposit for a mortgage. The Government is to guarantee up to £10 billion to support increased building of both affordable homes and homes for private rent. But developers are to be freed to ignore "not viable" council targets for affordable homes.
Therefore I ask, could Cornwall Council (CC) see some way of achieving a low-cost loan from the Government to speed up construction of affordable housing? It could use council land and invest in local builders. It would be investing in our people's future, or would the idea smack too much of socialism?
I was at a council Conversations Panel where it was stated that CC is considering buying the affordable housing from the builders. CC is presently selling council land to builders for them to build affordable housing. How does that work?
CC should concentrate on fewer "open market houses" and more housing for those in need i.e. single households, pensioners, and lone parents. Retired people are looking for ways to downsize to realise assets to help their families get on the first rung of the ladder. That first rung is now 'affordable housing' as the 'open market houses' are beyond reach for many. I believe 10,000 people live in rented accommodation. We need to encourage and keep our young people by giving them the necessary housing and opportunities to train and work.
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Councillor Birt Biscoe reported: "In the early 1990s there were 186,000 people in employment in Cornwall (annual Labour Force Survey). By 2009-10 this figure was almost 240,000. Despite the recession, job numbers had grown by over 50,000 in 20 years. This was associated with a growth in dwellings of 41,320 (CC, 'Housing Growth Discussion Paper, v4, July 2012). So for each new house there were at least 1.29 extra jobs.
The Council wants another 50,000 jobs over the next 20 years. If there is a relationship between dwellings built and jobs created then this suggests 50,000 jobs could be achieved in the context of 39,000 houses.
But current assumptions on jobs need to be questioned. First, new houses increase the number of job-seekers as well as jobs. Second, should we now be more concerned about the quality than the quantity of jobs? (eg. the proportion of part-time and low paid jobs has risen faster in Cornwall than in England over the last 20 years.
A few affordable houses are being built here and a few more there. We certainly don't see any message coming out from CC that they are listening to the concerns of the electorate. CC needs to look at their planning policy taking in the views and concerns of our county and start speaking with the Cabinet Minister – Mr Pickles in Westminster.
I t is time Cornwall councillors responded to public concern. Openness transparency and respect is needed.