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Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems call for social housing fund

July 25, 2019 8:48 AM

There is a desperate need for more affordable and social housing across the country, including in our local region.

Demand Better

Both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council own housing companies that build market housing for sale. Local Liberal Democrat Councillors on HBC and NYCC this month proposed motions asking that 20% of any net profit from these housing companies be put aside to fund social housing.

Introducing the motion to NYCC Cllr Geoff Webber said:

"In the 1950s we were building 147,000 homes a year but that dropped to just 224 in the early two thousands. Last year councils across the country built just over 2,640 new homes with North Yorkshire featuring near the bottom of the league table. My own district, Harrogate, built just 10 homes for social rent. Because of the lack of social and affordable homes being built, more and more families and individuals find themselves pushed into an often more expensive and less secure private rented sector. As a result, the housing benefit bill paid to private landlords has more than doubled in the last decade."

The proposal will now be referred to NYCC's Corporate and Partnerships Scrutiny Committee. The Lib Dems will continue to press NYCC to vote in favour of this motion when it returns for further consideration.

Cllr Pat Marsh spoke for the Lib Dem motion at the HBC meeting on 17th July saying:

"It is essential that we do all we can to build houses for the people who work here and would love to live here and for those languishing on our housing waiting list. We can help to guarantee this by starting to build Local Authority homes again and by putting aside 20% of any profits from the Housing Company we have set up, we could help to kick start the process of building homes for our Residents and workers who need them.

The right to buy and the stop, until 2018, on Local Authorities from borrowing to build social housing has decimated our housing stock and whilst our Affordable Homes Policy is starting to address this it will never do it alone. We, as a Council, need to take back control and maybe then we can increase our economic growth, start to house those Residents languishing on our housing waiting list and those low paid workers who cannot afford to live where they work and whose travel into Harrogate adds to the congestion."

It was deeply disappointing that the Lib Dem motion put to HBC was completely re-written in amendments proposed by Conservative leader Cllr Cooper.

Cllr Marsh, said:

"I was once again angered and dismayed that Lib Dem attempts to help our community were yet again thwarted by Councillor Cooper and the Conservative Group at the last Council meeting. Cllr Cooper moved an amendment, or should I say re-wrote our proposed Motion, which, if we had accepted it, would have brought about no certainty with regards to any monies being allocated to the provision of social housing.

We need all voices to be heard and for those unable to buy houses or unable to afford private rented accommodation. We need to start to build social housing for them, their voices need to be heard."

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The motion as proposed to HBC and after amendments read:

Lib Dem Motion:

"That this Council allocates 20% of the net profit made by Bracewell Homes to a fund specifically to support the provision of social housing".

Conservative Amendment

"That this Council realises it cannot bind the hands of future councils in perpetuity in terms of budget setting. It will therefore consider the net profit made by Bracewell Homes in light of the overall budget position, giving due consideration from Scrutiny. As part of the budget process members can recommend the allocation of available funds from any part of the Council's income to social housing projects".