It makes sense to build more homes

Cllr Nawaz
Cllr Nawaz

Home has been humorously defined as “the one place where you go that they have to take you in”. Joking aside, we simply don’t have enough of them to meet the demand, writes cllr Shaz Nawaz, leader of The Labour Party on Peterborough City Council.

The latest figures are shocking. There are currently 900,000 fewer home-owning households comprised of people under 45 than in 2010, i.e. when Labour was last in office. House building still hasn’t returned to pre-crash levels.

This, plus austerity measures, have caused homelessness to skyrocket. Here in Peterborough, we are not immune: the rise in rough sleeping has been noticeable. The council only responded after sustained pressure from opposing parties and the public.

Peterborough’s record on housing has been an embarrassment: the debacle at St Michael’s Gate received nationwide media coverage. The Conservative administration also shipped homeless families to Travelodges in Doncaster and Leicester. Not only was this inhumane, it has cost the taxpayers millions.

The remedy is simple: we need more homes. The Conservatives have been merely tinkering at the edges of the problem by setting up the Meadesham Homes joint venture. It’s not building a sufficient amount of homes to keep up with demand. Their target for 2018/19 is a paltry 152 homes and 186 homes in 2019/20.

Furthermore, currently just over 1,000 homes are being built per year in Peterborough as a whole. Why can’t the council build most of them? Why can’t the council stretch to say, a target of 500-600 homes? Why can’t they be ambitious and push the total number of homes built in our city to 1,200 per year?

No doubt there are concerns about infrastructure: schools, medical facilities, sewers, and roads. However, the current local plan suggests we need to build over 20,000 homes over the next 20 years. Existing facilities are overstretched: we needed to upgrade infrastructure anyway, we may as well anticipate Peterborough’s growth at the same time.

In order to achieve these goals, the next Labour administration will go for the £2.7 billion funding available from central government by applying for a Housing Revenue Account. Our figures suggest we will be able to build 3,000 homes over five years. The cost will be £450 million in total. The income based on Local Housing Allowance Rates for, say all 3-bedroom properties will equate to £21 million. The interest cost of the £450m will be £11.5m per year. That leaves a surplus £9.5m to manage the portfolio. In short, the scheme pays for itself. Restricting growth, as we’ve done hitherto, only restricts revenue. It also drives up property prices, which may of benefit to some, but not for the majority who simply need a clean, warm place to live. It’s more than that: children who grow up in adequate homes have a better start in life, people who have adequate homes in which to lay their head are better able to tackle the challenges of work. Home Is the place where a good society begins: Labour will make it so.