South Gloucestershire Council will discuss housing strategies in a mini-debate at its meeting on Wednesday evening [22 March] as a result of Labour questioning the Government’s backtracking on one of its key housing pledges.
At the last general election the Conservatives pledged to build 200,000 ‘starter homes’ at 20 per cent below market price. However, in the housing White Paper released last month the Government signalled that it would drop a requirement that 20 per cent of all developments over a certain size must be starter homes, instead now wanting 10 per cent of developments to be what it vaguely terms “affordable home ownership”.
On 9 March the Housing Minister advised Labour Shadow Minister John Healey MP that starter homes would “form an important part” of their strategy, rather than confirm the previous specific target.
Back in December, South Gloucestershire’s Policy & Resources Committee approved the provision of land in Soundwell for the starter homes scheme and gave officials the authority to agree additional sites. Labour councillors now want to know where the recent Government changes leaves the council and its housing strategy.
The Leader of Labour’s councillors in South Gloucestershire, Councillor Pat Rooney, says:
“The Government’s already unambitious vision for housing has been slimmed down even further with these recent announcements. The starter homes programme is far from perfect as the purchase price would not be truly affordable for most first-time buyers, but at least it was a specific and measurable commitment. The recent changes in the White Paper and the parliamentary answer signal a worrying reversal just when we need more affordable homes, not fewer.
The new Metro Mayor will face major expectations to deliver on housing, but I have little faith in the Conservative Government helping them achieve the homes we desperately need when it is backtracking on its existing pledges.”