Affordable Housing for Reading

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!).

 But above all of this let’s start our own plan for Reading West on the 8th May to take control of our own housing situation.  There is so much we can do that we do not need Westminster’s blessing for.
What do you think?

Bringing the Power of Social Media to Politics

Reading West has six candidates, so far, for the coming General Election in May 2015, and since this constituency tends to change hands with the change of power, it should be an interesting one to watch.  The climate in the run up to this election is the most interesting in my lifetime, and I’m sure that is not just because I am standing myself.  2010 was the first election which wasn’t just about Red and Blue.  And this election is much wider open already, as the latest Lord Ashcroft poll shows:

The two main parties are loosing their following left, Ashcroft poleright and centre and people power movements and on-line petitions have emerged to have a significant sway over public opinion and policy.

And yet the internet is still are largely untapped resource for many candidates.  In Reading West I have only managed to find contact details for 5 out of 6 candidates, a Wikipedia page for 2 and only three of us have twitter accounts.

I just had a very interesting twitter conversation with a Reading West constituent who justifiably called me out on my presumed judgement that some of the candidates “seemed to be doing nothing”, when my only resource was the internet.  He was completely right, I had no idea what they are doing IN Reading West, based on the fact that I cannot see it on-line.  Now if I those candidates that would worry me.  I would love to be ale to devote time to both physical presence in Reading talking to people face to face, working in the community AND using the internet to talk to people, write and conduct research.  But, in my opinion, the internet will reach a lot more people.

I am basing this on the fact that Reading West has a larger than average proportion of students/young professionals and middle-aged, tech-savy-professionals as well.  Both of these groups can be reached via the internet at a time convenient to them (and to me).  The former group, traditionally don’t vote, but make up a significant proportion of the new, on-line people power movements, so anyone who ignores them now, is taking a big risk.  I’m banking on them voting in 2015.

So although I already had this website, a public Facebook account, dedicated gmail and twitter set up for my campaign, I have now added to my social media reach with a tumblr, Instagram and you tube, and more to come.  I can be found under the name “SuzieFerguson4MP” or “SuzieFerguson4ReadingWest” and I’ll keep working at getting in touch with as many different groups of constituents as I can so that I can find out what it is that THEY want from an MP and the next parliament and to make sure, at least, that their voice is heard.