A few weeks back there was a good debate about economic inequality and the cost of housing. Reading, like many places has a housing problem. Not enough that is affordable to buy or to rent and not enough social housing, what there is; is costing our council a fortune.
While a number for good policy suggestions were floated at the debate we need something immediate. Here is a plan I would put into action on the 8th May if I’m elected.
I’d start a not-for-profit organisation with the purpose of providing real affordable housing (homes with a value of £200k and below) and social housing by buying up derelicts and brownfield sites and turning them into affordable and social housing and an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) for the homeless. The money would be raised via a method such as crowdfunder.
The organisation would work closely with Reading and West Berks Councils to find the right locations, get through the required permitting, apply for grants for clean-up of old industrial sites and in return would give priority to the council for its social housing needs for a large proportion of the homes brought to the market. ALL other homes provided would be real affordable homes with facilities adequate to support the number of people who would live in them (utilities, sewage, bus stops and parking).
Construction provides a lot of jobs (and apprenticeships) in the Reading area, but through this organisation any profits would be channelled directly back into the community and would provide greatly needed housing at the minimum possible cost. This should also help to reduce the price of other housing, both rented and owned, which has been spiralling up and up compared to wages.
There are plenty of details which need working out, but several London Councils have already done a similar trick with great success. This kind of initiative takes work and help to start it off, I’ll be very happy to set it up, starting on the 8th May, it if elected as your MP, because it makes sense.
Good but rather generic suggestions from the main parties were:
- The Liberal Democrats pledge to sort out planning, more accommodation for single households, make councils work together to ease planning problems, build new Garden cities, if private companies don’t build enough the government to build houses.
- Labour pledge to prevent long term land banking, build new council houses, plenty of Brownfield sites are still available.
- UKIP plan to get rid of bedroom tax causing people to move out of London to Reading, use brownfield sites and provide tax concessions on brownfield sites (eg no VAT or Stamp duty)
- The Green Party would build council houses, end right to buy, introduce rent controls & long tenancies, mass insulation scheme, force developers to make affordable /social housing and borrow money to pay for it.
- (No conservative representatives were in attendance).
I say; let’s fix our planning regualtions, get councils to work together, outlaw long term land banking, reuse brownfield sites, (definately get rid of the bedroom tax anyway!), tax concsessions on brownfield site and end the right to buy and consider introducing at least some form of rent control. (Even Dubai has rent control to keep the prices from rising too fast!).