Council is ‘failing’ to provide affordable housing

A COUNCIL has ignored its own admission that there is a need for more affordable homes in North Herts, according to the opposition party.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) said in its housing needs assessment in 2010 that 560 more affordable homes are required each year across the district.

But since 2003, just under 100 new affordable homes a year on average have been built.

Cllr David Billing, leader of the North Herts Labour Group, proposed a motion to include addressing the lack of affordable housing in its council priorities.

It was voted against at Full Council, in which three priorities were made. These were ‘living within local means to deliver cost-effective services’, ‘working with local communities’, and ‘protecting environment for communities’.

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“It is astonishing that they [council priorities] do not include building greater numbers of affordable homes or promoting more jobs, which denies residents’ stronger needs in these hard times,” said Cllr Billing.

“The ruling Tories’ top priority is cutting, so they and the majority of the Liberal Democrats voted against any additions. Yet, living within our means should not rule out using tax payers’ money more effectively to ensure that we meet such vital needs.

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“They argue that homes and employment are implied in their ‘local communities’ priority. This just does not wash - there is no mention of housing, jobs or economic regeneration anywhere in the report which they voted for. If they thought these were important, they would surely would have said so in the report.

“The council has failed to listen to people, yet it claims to be the community leader.”

Figures show that two-thirds of individuals or families without their own homes earn less than would be required to buy the cheapest one or two bed flats in the district, with more than 80 per cent having too little savings for a deposit to secure a mortgage.

NHDC claimed the housing and employment factors were addressed within the priorities it made.

Cllr Claire Strong, NHDC’s policy portfolio holder, said: “I am confident that these [priorities] reflect the issues that affect people who live and work in North Herts.

“Living within our means to deliver cost-effective services will be extremely important over the next few years, and it will affect everything we do. We will need to reduce what we spend and explore new ways of working to deliver value for money for the services provided.

“Working with local communities is another key area, and this includes continued commitment to our ongoing projects to boost the economies in our town centres, as well as working with partners and community groups to deliver improvements in towns and rural areas.

“Environmental protection of our communities for the future contains our commitment to recycling rates, maintain our parks and open spaces, and also to ensure that the much-needed affordable housing in the area is delivered in an appropriate way which doesn’t encroach on the green belt.

“At this stage we are identifying the high-level priorities but detailed projects in support of these priorities will be worked on over the coming months. As that process develops, I hope that people will agree that their council is responding to the needs of residents throughout the district.“

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