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Housing for local need
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has just published a new report about the housing market. It is critical of the extent of planned developments and the amount of countryside that is being lost, and it is also pointing out that the housing needs of local people are still not being met.
The document has been widely welcomed and there was even an editorial in the Western Morning News under the heading “All new homes should be built to meet local need.”

In preparing this week’s article, I looked back at some columns on planning and housing that I have written over the past eight years or so, and it really is saddening how central government has time and time again refused to act on legitimate criticism of its failed policies.

As a local councillor, I have been involved with numerous planning battles – both in terms of policy and actual planning applications – and, on many occasions, it has been so dispiriting.

It is particularly galling when housing developments do not have enough affordable housing or, on occasions, no affordable housing at all.

Many young people will not remember but at the turn of the millennium it was possible to buy a new two-bedroom house in mid Cornwall for under £50,000, or a three-bedroom house for under £60,000. Rents in the private sector were also much more reasonable.But since then, the housing market – both for purchase and rent – has become truly dysfunctional. House prices pretty much tripled in the decade after 2000 and the cost of renting in the private sector also exploded.

At the same time, wage increases have been very modest and the gap between household incomes and basic housing costs has become so much greater.

Housing ministers in the UK Government have acknowledged that house prices in Britain are "too unaffordable" but they have done nothing to reduce the cost of renting or purchasing a house, which is so needed in low wage areas like Cornwall.

They have even redefined what can be termed “affordable housing” and made it more expensive, while cutting funding and discouraging the provision of less expensive social rents that have traditionally been provided by councils and housing associations.

This all needs to change and there is so much that the UK Government should be doing. Here are a few suggestions for starters – (i) increased investment in a public rented sector with rents kept as low as possible, (ii) legislation to control prices in the private rented sector, (iii) action on second homes, and (iv) the devolution of all aspects of planning and planning policy to Cornwall.

[This was my article in the Cornish Guardian on 17 October]
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By Dick Cole. Published on 23rd October 2018.

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