Labour councillors have accused the ruling Lib-Dem/Tory coalition of obstructing attempts to help York’s residents to enter the property ladder. A Labour motion to council attempted to push the coalition to review the percentage of lower-cost housing on council owned development sites.
Planned developments in the future at places like Burnholme, Askham Bar and Duncombe Barracks will look to provide a mix of market sale properties and affordable tenures such as shared ownership and social housing. But with the Prime Minister announcing recently that the debt cap will be removed for Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs) – the means through which councils deliver ‘affordable’ housing – new freedoms are expected to give councils more ability to tackle the lack of affordable homes, particularly in high demand areas like York,
The removal of the HRA debt cap provides the council with the ability to borrow more, and over a longer period, in order to address local housing need.
Labour’s housing spokesperson, Councillor Margaret Wells, moved the Labour motion to Council. She says:
“The removal of the debt cap is a significant moment in councils’ abilities to begin to really tackle the lack of affordable housing, like we have here in York. We want to see mixed, balanced communities but with limited council owned sites in York, we must take the opportunity to do what we can to offer decent, affordable housing options for those who aspire to rent or part-buy a decent home.
“We think the council needs to re-examine the mix of homes on the sites it owns in order to maximise homes people can afford. There does need to be some market sale homes to help pay for these developments, but it doesn’t need to be as high as it is”.
Cllr. Michael Pavlovic seconded the motion and spoke in support. He argues the opportunity to address the housing needs of the most vulnerable in the city must be taken. He comments:
“The ruling Tory-Lib Dem Coalition has basically done nothing on affordable housing for the first three years of its time in office, other than to tinker with existing plans it inherited and add significant cost to the taxpayer.
“It now has a final chance to do something positive before it goes into May’s local election. It should be thinking about how several council-owned sites could be making a contribution to reducing the long council waiting list, to homelessness, and to providing opportunities to those wanting to take the first step on the housing ladder by part-buying their first home.
“The balance currently is not right, but as has been the case since the Coalition came to power, it appears to want to take the easy option rather than doing the right thing for the people of this city”.
At council, the motion was amended by the Lib-Dems, supported by the Tories, to remove the heart of the motion and change it to a commitment to examine things again once the debt cap removal process has been fully implemented. As such, the Labour party councillors chose to abstain on the motion, feeling that the Lib-Dems and their Tory partners had effectively rendered it meaningless. Cllr Kallum Taylor spoke to the amendment, saying that the Lib-Dem/Tory coalition had betrayed those they were elected to represent, and should be ashamed of themselves.