Friday, 10 April 2015

Lib Dems call on Labour to make affordable homes a priority

Liberal Democrats are calling on Labour's city council administration to rethink its plan to invest the lion's share of the council's available funds in commercial property and instead to make its priority alleviating the city's affordable housing needs.

The move comes in a motion to next week's meeting of the full council in the names of Lib Dem leader Cllr Tim Bick and colleague councillors Catherine Smart, Andy Blackhurst, Nick Avery and Phil Tucker.

"It is quite extraordinary that Labour is continuously commentating on the housing needs of the city, but when it has the resources, it's first instincts appears to be to pour them into commercial, rather than residential property investment," said Cllr Avery.

"There is no shortage of investors in commercial property in this city. But there is a huge need for homes in which young people can get started and the city council has it in its power to help. Even at affordable rents, these can generate a good financial return to the council as a long term investment"

"We brought forward a proposal in the council budget earlier this year which we had worked up with council officers. This would have seen 100 new homes built on council owned land - all at sub-market rents. 40 per cent would have been at social rents; the rest would have been 'intermediate' homes at 80 per cent of market rents to help those in need but are unlikely ever to satisfy the criteria of social need.

"The proposal was ridiculed and rubbished by Labour. But the fact is: people do expect their council not to operate just like a banker or a financial institution, but to marry up sound investment plans with the needs of the community. Labour seemed to miss this point. If this matter is delayed any longer the money will have been committed elsewhere.

"We are bringing this motion next week to give Labour an opportunity to think about this a bit more before it's too late. Hopefully they could come up with a better plan than they have done so far for the needs of the city."

The wording of the motion is as follows:
"Council calls on the Executive to reconsider the priority it has adopted to use the council's general funds to invest in commercial property above building more affordable homes for the people of the city."