Many of you will know that I have been very vocal on the subject of building on our green belt. Cherwell District Council has been holding partial review of its local plan over the past 2 years which includes a massive amount of building in south Cherwell almost exclusively on green belt land.
Whilst I agree that we need more housing in Cherwell, I think that housing should be for the people of Cherwell and it should be genuinely affordable. The Partial Review is pushing to build an extra 4400 houses in Cherwell to meet the needs of Oxford City, even though those needs have yet to be defined in the City’s local plan.
We have ample space on brown field sites to accommodate that need, and the Labour run city council has time and again ring-fenced those sites for more economic development, rather than prioritising the housing needs of its own people.
The Green Party wants to see housing needs met, but with the right houses in the right places. We don’t want to see our green spaces gobbled up by greedy developers looking to build luxury houses on expensive land that will never be truly affordable to the local population. These developments are being driven by quangos like the Oxfordshire Growth Board and the Local Enterprise Partnership which are all dominated by Conservatives and vested interests.
Green belt areas are not just pretty landscapes, they are also vital places that help the planet deal with the emissions being created by growth elsewhere. Concreting them over and siting more roads and more housing on the space where trees and grass once grew not only removes the capacity of those areas to lock up carbon, it also increases emissions and worsens local air quality.
I will continue to fight for more genuinely affordable housing, built to high environmental standards and accessible to the local people and their families who really need it. But I will resist that being done on our precious green spaces
We need a huge increase in building affordable houses – both to buy and to rent. Conservative and Labour governments have an appalling record regarding housing, with denying local government the ability to build social housing to rent and preventing the building of private homes.
The current definition of housing affordability is houses for sale at 80% of the current market value. In Oxfordshire this is a ludicrous proposition, putting houses well out of the reach of anyone on an average salary. It’s time that this calculation was revised. My personal preference would be to reduce it to 50% of market value, but I doubt very much if that would be supported by property developers or the local politicians that hand them the projects to build much needed housing.
The policy of Help to Buy has already led to increases in house prices without increasing the supply. ISAs to help first time buyers only served the same purpose. The Conservatives have re-inflated the housing bubble that led to the crash of 2008. Once again using house price inflation and debt to show a false upturn in the economy.
Cherwell District Council’s outdated Housing Needs Survey (2008) indicates 74% of our homeless can’t afford to buy properties in Cherwell.
There is a shortfall of affordable housing of 500 homes per annum – before dealing with the backlog that includes families living in unsuitable accommodation. Banburians have the lowest average wages in the County. The number of households on the Cherwell District Council’s Housing List has doubled from 2000 in 1997 to 4000 in 2012.
The Green Party will resume direct investment in council and other social housing and allow councils to use receipts from sales to fund affordable accommodation.
There are about one million empty homes and we will halve this number through empty property use orders. We will give local authorities the same duties to single people and childless couples as to families and end the practice of declaring people “intentionally homeless” and end the right to buy and introduce the right to rent as well as introduce a free home insulation service.
We will also build thousands of new social rented homes renewing the supply of council housing and affordable rented homes that has been devastated by decades of right to buy sell-offs.
We will also ensure that housing is built to serve local needs rather than as dormitories for London commuters or as investment opportunities for large scale buy to let landlords.
We need to have a realistic conversation about the future of housing in Britain with an acceptance that the idea of getting on the housing ladder may be a very dim and distant dream for most first time buyers. Faced with that situation we need to focus much more on making the private rental sector much fairer and more affordable. We also need to build more council housing and create a national building project where local finance can support the costs of building homes rather than lining the pockets of private developers.