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Lib Dems are right to oppose the damaging Conservative plans to worsen the housing crisis in Slough says Robert Plimmer

November 12, 2015 11:26 PM
By Slough Liberal Democrats

Robert Plimmer, Liberal Democrat campaigner in Cippenham, says "I'm pleased the new Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, is so strongly opposing the Conservatives' housing plans that will do so much damage in Slough and elsewhere. There is a national housing crisis, but it is particularly bad in places such as Slough where the policies of the local Labour Party over many decades have made the problem even worse.

"Given the housing shortage in Slough the Conservative plans to make access to social and affordable housing more difficult are very worrying. The Tories plan to sell off more social housing and relax the requirements on developers to work with Councils such as in Slough to provide new social/affordable housing. And in Slough this is the only source of new social housing. Below I'm setting out extracts from the recent speech in Parliament from Tim Farron in which he vigorously opposed the Conservatives' plans, and set out the Lib Dem alternative policies."

TimFarronInHighWycombeOct2015

Tim Farron, Lib Dem leader, recently spoke at a Lib Dem conference in High Wycombe (see photo) and condemned the Conservatives' housing plans. Then in the debate in Parliament on 2nd Nov about the proposed legislation (called a Bill) containing the Conservatives' housing proposals Tim said:

"I would say that this is clearly a national problem. Of course it varies in different areas, but we have a national emergency, even, in housing. Millions of people suffer daily from poor housing, or from the uncertainty of not knowing where they will be living from one month to the next and whether they can send their children to the same school one term after the next. Across the country, we have soaring house prices several times higher than a median earner can afford, and a rental sector in which many people spend over half their income on rent.

"There is a need for Government, first, to show that they understand this emergency, and then to show the ambition to make real change that improves people's lives. However, this Bill is disappointing and unambitious at best, and brutal and counter-productive at worst. It does not make a significant attempt to tackle the housing crisis or show any signs of being written by anyone who even understands that crisis. Instead, it is an all-out assault on social and affordable housing at the very time when those homes are most needed....It will have long-term consequences in breaking up communities through selling off homes, and those consequences will be damaging and irreversible.

"The Bill barely even addresses those crucial issues and certainly does not tackle them. It forces councils to sell off higher-value homes and makes no commitment to replace homes sold off under the extension of right to buy to housing association tenants. It allows developers off the hook from providing affordable homes and instead prioritises so-called starter homes that were not affordable in the first place and certainly will not be after their first owner. While it has positive aspects on rogue landlords and speeding up planning processes, it is mostly an eclectic jumble of initiatives that miss the point of the housing emergency before us.

"Access to housing is fundamental to our liberties, our opportunities, and our hopes for the future; that applies to every person here. We therefore need a positive vision for housing that meets existing needs and gives security to the most vulnerable. We need more homes of all tenures-affordable homes that must live up to their name and be genuinely affordable. We need an ambitious plan that increases home-building to 300,000 properties a year, that is forward-thinking, and that sets us up for the low-carbon future that is essential for the sustainability of our planet.

"The Liberal Democrat vision is based on understanding this emergency and having ambitions to solve it. It is a vision of 10 new garden cities strategically placed where new communities can grow and thrive; of empowering councils to manage their housing stock effectively, enabling them to borrow what they can and build what they need; of stimulating private sector investment in housing through the creation of a housing investment bank; of supporting and sustaining rural communities to ensure that young families can afford to continue living in the place they call home; of strengthening local communities by bringing empty homes back into use...

"Instead of that, this Bill will cause the break-up of communities as homes sold off under right to buy and the forced sale of council homes are lost to local people. Its provisions will significantly reduce the number of social and affordable homes, leading in turn to a rise in homelessness and adding to the already huge waiting lists totalling 1.6 million people. With more people in expensive temporary accommodation or in the private rented sector because there are not enough affordable homes, there will be extra costs for the housing benefit bill.

"The flaws in this Bill are clear and the unintended consequences are extensive. Britain needs a radical, ambitious, compassionate housing policy that addresses the needs of supply and affordability and strengthens, not dismantles, communities. This Bill is worse than a wasted opportunity. It will inexcusably make the housing emergency worse. That is why we will oppose the Bill tonight and speak up for the millions for whom the housing emergency is not a political issue, but a daily reality."