One of Labour’s top priorities is to fix the housing crisis, both in the country as a whole, and specifically in Peterborough, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council Cllr Shaz Nawaz.
It’s not merely a matter of ensuring families have a roof over their heads; if it was as simple as that, it would be a problem easily solved.
What is required are suitable houses: without a clean, secure home with adequate space, light and warmth, it’s not possible to have a proper environment for children to learn and grow and for lives to prosper.
We need to fix both issues of demand and supply: it is very strange there are apartment blocks in the centre of London in which all the units are sold, yet they have low occupancy rates. Investors have bought these flats as a way of storing money; this drives up prices throughout London and ripples out to Peterborough. If the Conservatives were serious about fixing this, they would tackle the problem head-on. However, as much of the Conservative-designed economy is fuelled by the supposition of rising house prices, I doubt they will.
The results have been dire: we have had far too many people living in Travelodges, a situation that was only ameliorated after a lot of political pressure was applied. The issues at St. Michael’s Gate are ongoing. The numbers of those in temporary accommodation have gone down from around 356 to circa 325: progress has been painfully slow.
It’s clear we have yet to supply enough homes for the people of our city. This is more a lack of will and imagination than ability. The Labour Group and I have been talking and listening to people, developing policies based on what people want rather than what government thinks they want. Out of these consultations, I’m pleased to announce that upon taking control of Peterborough City Council, Labour will look to establish a Housing Revenue Account.
This will require the approval of the Secretary of State; the scheme, however, envisages building a certain number of homes per year, some will be for council use, others might be sold to help fund some of the cost of borrowing. The sale of homes will provide a revenue stream that will ensure that more homes can be built. We will commit to specific numbers in the upcoming manifesto.
This scheme is far less wasteful than present arrangements: money that goes to Travelodges disappears forever. However, if we invest in housing, we can see a steady return: we will develop an asset. We will also ensure the scheme’s efficiency by utilising modular home technology. We will work with local contractors to create a circular economy.
It’s clear that the status quo shouldn’t be satisfactory to anyone. It’s time for an administration that addresses problems imaginatively. Yes, we live in times of limited budgets, but that shouldn’t mean truncated ambitions, nor indeed, that we should give up.
Solutions are out there; the building blocks to new homes can be put in place.