On May 4 Cambridgeshire elects its first ever mayor.
The mayor will head a new authority which will have hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on housing and infrastructure.
The money for housing is £170 million, of which £70 million is ring-fenced for Cambridge. The Peterborough Telegraph asked all seven mayoral candidates to say what their policies for housing are.
Kevin Price, Labour
As mayor I firmly believe that tackling poverty and inequality across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is the measure on which the success of the mayor must be judged. We are a high growth region and an economic powerhouse for the UK but that economic growth risks leaving thousands of families even further behind because of our housing affordability crisis. The mayor must intervene directly in housing to counter the rising tide of homelessness across our area since 2010, and ensure that the scandal of St Michael’s Gate in Peterborough, where families were made homeless to house other homeless families, is never repeated.
I want to break the stranglehold that the Conservatives’ poor national housing policy has had on councils and housing associations by making the term ‘affordable housing’ almost meaningless and directing all funding away from social rented homes. As mayor I will act immediately to use the powers in the Devolution Deal in two key ways.
Firstly, to define ‘affordable’ as a household spending no more than a third of its gross annual household income on housing costs. Secondly, to set a local framework for allocating devolution housing funding to housing associations or councils who will prioritise building homes to rent at Local Housing Allowance levels.
As deputy leader of Cambridge City Council I already have a record of delivering new, genuinely affordable council homes and I already have a record of standing up for this region to the Government and securing a landmark housing Devolution Deal of £170m to build 2,500 new council and housing association homes over the next five years. As mayor, I will put delivering new genuinely affordable high quality housing across the whole area at the heart of the Combined Authority to reduce poverty and tackle inequality in all our communities.
James Palmer, Conservative
The housing need in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough will not be solved by one formula but creating solutions suitable for all areas. While house prices differ across the region, housing need is constant.
I believe strongly in Community Land Trust schemes and have already delivered on such schemes in East Cambridgeshire.
CLT’s are formed by local people who have control over design and density.
Typically Trust Housing is built outside the planning envelope and the uplift in the value of land is used to pay for the houses that belong to the CLT.
Trust houses are for people who live and work in the village, town or city where they are built.
Typical rents can be 70% or less of market value, and there are also shared ownership options.
How a trust operates and what it charges to the occupant is reflective of the local need.
Alongside CLTs I will also look to promote modular homes.
Modern modular or pre-fabricated homes are designed and built to a very high standard and can be erected in less than a day.
With housing need so acute, the Combined Authority must look at all options and I believe well designed modular homes, built locally, can alleviate some of the problems we have, especially in built up areas.
Whilst we must provide new homes, it is imperative that the infrastructure, roads, rail, schools and doctors’ surgeries are also included as the population grows.
This is an area the mayor can and must directly influence.
High quality homes for all, with green open spaces and appropriate infrastructure but sensitive to our current towns, cities and villages is the challenge that I will set myself should I be elected.
Peter Dawe, independent
A vision of housing in Cambridgeshire:
The failure to balance housing, employment and infrastructure in Cambridgeshire has made it one of the most unequal places in the UK. Land owners and developers are exploiting the severe shortage of homes to make high profits.
The only way we can make good affordable homes accessible to all is to radically change how we operate the housing market in Cambridgeshire:
lBuild a homes factory in North East Cambridgeshire that can make 20 homes a day to consistent high specification
l Make housing land available by a massive increase to planning permits
l Sell government owned development land directly to the public, to ensure that building is rapid and not “gamed” by developers and the people of Cambridgeshire benefit from any gains
l Issue permits for mobile homes on any development land not immediately used for construction
l Seek to charge rates on development land as business assets, rather than “land”
l Build new towns that are service rich, reducing the need totravel for health, education, retail and leisure etc.
l Build new towns that can support high quality transport connections to other urban areas
l Do not scatter unsustainable new homes across the county in greenfield sites with no access to transport, services or jobs.
l Do not create further injustice by offering “social housing” or other subsidised homes to a lucky few, at the expense of the many. E.g. Two nurses working together being thousands of pounds better off simply because they were lucky to get a subsidised “social house.”
All of this is deliverable in four years.
Paul Bullen, UKIP
Our housing, education, health and social services cannot cope with constantly rising numbers of people coming to live here. I will reduce the pressure on housing by opposing open door immigration and provide incentives to re-use empty homes. The Government is riding roughshod over local people’s wishes with mass house building that has become a ‘Developers Charter’ without the services and infrastructure to go with it. I will offer the people of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough what they deserve, more power for local people and local communities and more say over what happens in their street, village, town and city. I’ll offer an alternative of direct democracy and empower our residents to influence everything that I do by putting democracy back into local government. Social housing and locally affordable homes should be prioritised for local people and veterans but, at the same time, our green spaces should be protected. I will do all that I can to protect food security and farming. I will direct new housing to brownfield sites wherever possible and will not allow any special treatment for special groups such as travellers – rules should apply equally to us all. New housing must be affordable as our children find it more difficult to buy or rent as costs escalate. I will ensure that all new housing built in Cambridgeshire, and commissioned by the mayor, will be social housing that will provide real homes for our young and old alike. I will not impose a mayoral precept on our council tax payers as this only increases what we actually pay to run our homes. I will ensure that any new housing has access to quality local education and give parents the right to choose where children go to school.
Stephen Goldspink, English Democrat
The £170 million housing budget must be invested for maximum effect, and I expect a range of affordable housing projects to be put forward by councils in the area. Seventy million pounds of this is ring-fenced to Cambridge, so an immediate task for the incoming mayor will be to secure additional funding to supplement the £100 million left for the rest of the county. When looking at schemes put forward by councils, one qualifying factor for funding allocation will be that councils seeking funds will need to prove that they are effectively addressing the problem of empty properties.
There are around 600,000 empty homes in England. Did you know that councils could serve a Compulsory Purchase Order on the property, serve improvement notices (to make the owner bring their property up to the current housing standards), apply for an Empty Dwelling Management Order (which enables the council to take over the management of the property for up to seven years), carry out remedial works and use the property to reduce the housing need within the area, enforce the sale of a property or carry out a Demolition Order (where the condition of a property goes beyond a returnable state of repair)? As mayor, I will ensure the issue is effectively addressed in our county, as it is a scandal when a serious housing shortage exists and there are so many homeless people.
The need to build could be greatly reduced if councils were effective in tackling empty properties.
Julie Howell, Green Party
House prices in our region have sky-rocketed, while the provision of council housing and truly affordable housing has failed to meet local needs. Few young people in Cambridgeshire can find affordable accommodation in their native villages, let alone in the towns and cities. We must make full use of existing housing stock by bringing empty buildings back into use and we must introduce disincentives for second homes. Planning policy should favour affordable, energy efficient, low impact housing.
A Green mayor would:
l Provide money for new council and social housing.
l Amend the definition of ‘affordable’ (currently 80 per cent of market price) by linking it to minimum wage levels.
l Introduce measures to ensure that new government support for self-build housing focuses on affordable housing, not just luxury housing. Single plot exception sites for self-build affordable housing should become a county policy.
l Encourage local councils to build non-domestic buildings to the ‘Excellent’ certification standard required by the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method.
l Ensure renewable technologies are incorporated into domestic and non-domestic developments.
l Encourage local councils to adopt the Passive House standard for domestic developments in their local plans, this would improve thermal comfort, energy efficiency and air quality and help to reduce fuel poverty.
l Explore the possibility of increasing council tax on second homes and very high value homes as part of a re-banding process.
l Encourage the installation of solar thermal on all suitable roofs.
l Invest in renewable energy technologies, which can bring economic benefits. Energy efficiency measures, including retrofitting insulation to housing and buildings, would be a priority.
l Ensure all newly built houses are sold to homeowners on a freehold (not leasehold) basis.
Rod Cantrill, Liberal Democrat
As I listen to people across the region, they tell me they are concerned about the cost of housing. Not only buying a house but also being able to afford to rent one.
As a result they are forced to live a long way from where they work and spend far too much time commuting, causing a negative impact on family life. Many young people, like my children and their friends, cannot afford to live in the area where they grew up.
As a trustee of a homeless charity, I understand what it is like not to have a home and the impact that has on an individual’s life.
As mayor, I will provide a strong voice for everyone across our region, delivering sustainable communities based on creating jobs close to where people live.
It’s essential we provide vital infrastructure, such as doctors’ surgeries, high-speed broadband and good public transport, to build communities, not just isolated communities. If elected I will use my business knowledge and experience as a councillor to deliver much-needed social and affordable houses right across the region.
As part of this plan I will explore the use of a local living rent for new affordable houses, where the rent is set at one-third of a person’s income rather than a discount to the market rent. Together, I believe we can change the way politics work for local communities and deliver high-quality affordable homes for everyone across the region.