Stevenage social housing in ‘crisis’

A COUNCIL leader has spoken of the “serious housing crisis” faced amid new plans revealed by Government this week.

Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, has said central government’s proposal for tenants in social housing to buy their homes for as little as half the market price must see the receipt of sales go directly to councils, enabling them to build more homes.

Proposed changes to the ‘right to buy’ policy, introduced in 1980 by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was one of a number of plans for the housing sector outlined by current Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday.

Mr Cameron also revealed plans for a mortgage indemnity scheme enabling buyers of new homes to borrow up to 95 per cent of their value, with the government underwriting part of the risk to lenders.

Reacting, Cllr Taylor said: “In Stevenage we have a serious housing crisis on our hands. We’ve now about 7,000 on our waiting list and 50 families a week coming through the door.


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“I know people have aspirations to buy their houses and that’s great but if the Government are going to sell these houses we will need to be able to build at least one for every one that’s sold. And we need more houses than that. If the capital receipts are taken by Government as they have been doing that will stop us (the council) from building more houses.

“We’re in a desperate situation with social housing already. Building houses means jobs for people and business for companies so it’s not just about housing but the economy as a whole.”

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The right to buy policy no longer directly affects North Hertfordshire District Council (NHDC), as its housing stock is now owned and managed by North Hertfordshire Homes.

The housing association’s chief executive Kevin Thompson, who met with housing minister and Hertfordshire MP Grant Shapps on Friday, echoed the need for money made from sales to go towards affordable housing on a one for one basis.

“Many housing associations are at the limits of their borrowing capacity for new homes and the income from right to buy sales would mean we can get on with building desperately needed houses,” he said.

“We are watching how much discount will be offered to tenants - it needs to be high enough to make right to buy affordable, but not so high that the income generated is too low to enable new homes to be built.”

Deputy leader of NHDC Cllr Terry Hone added: “There’s still a need for housing and we do encourage that, making land available. We’re not stopping people from building houses but with the new Localism Bill it will be more difficult.”

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