The Green Position on the Local Housing Crisis

Hannah Temple published this on the Faversham Environmental Matters Facebook page.

We wish to amplify here her report of the meeting and the Green Party's policies

"Monday was a busy day! After the protest at County Hall in the morning it was my absolute pleasure to host a panel event on housing development at Painters Forstal Community Hall in the evening.

The fantastic panel discussed whether we were in a housing crisis and what kind of crisis this might be; how the existing planning system works and the implications for our communities and ecosystems and finally, what we can all do to make housing development work better for us.

It was a broad and wide-ranging discussion and many members of the audience also shared their insights and experience but here are a few key points:

🏠 The housing crisis we are in is one of affordability, of quality and of democracy: we critically lack enough good quality homes that are genuinely affordable for people earning an average wage and our existing system too often leave local people feeling unheard and powerless

🏠 Definitions are important: “Affordable” can be used to describe homes that are 80% of market rate – way out of reach for most people. The number of social rent housing (typically available at around 50% of market rate and often tied to local incomes, thus making it more genuinely affordable) has decreased by 165,022 in the last ten years whilst demand has grown (1.2 million people are currently in need of social housing)

🏠 Our local councils are often relatively powerless in the system: they face housing targets set by central government that are not rooted in locally-set needs, they do not get to choose where to propose housing and rather are dependent on local landowners to present sites, they do not control the inspections done for example for environmental assessments and these are often poorly executed, the Secretary of State has the power to overturn decisions made by local councils

🏠 The reason why new houses do not all have heat pumps and solar panels or come with new schools etc. is because developments have to meet “Viability” criteria which are in fact profit criteria: Unless a development can make the developer 15-20% profit then it is deemed “not viable”. This is why so often the things we are promised in developments like infrastructure, pubs, GP surgeries etc. later get cut out.

🏠 Part of the way forward has to be about dealing with empty properties: there are over 1000 empty homes in Swale alone

🏠 Continuing to build on agricultural land is a crisis in waiting in terms of food security: we should direct more housing development towards counties who do not have so much grade 1 agricultural land

🏠 Housing development can be really positive when communities take the lead: community-led and smaller-scale developments that are for local people and rooted in assessments of local needs are extremely positive and effective ways of helping people to stay in the communities they love

🏠 What we can do:

o Get involved in your local and neighbourhood plans! 

o Join a community land trust – Join the Faversham one here: https://fclt.org.uk/

o Write to elected representatives to hold them to account for the existing planning system

At the Green Party we believe affordable, secure and comfortable accommodation is a basic human right. We also believe that if you want a thriving prosperous healthy society, housing is at the core - good warm homes emit fewer carbon emissions, waste less energy and water, keep people healthier and give us a sense of safety, respect and worth.

A few of the policies the Greens stand for:

💚 Stop existing housing being purchased as speculative investments and reduce the numbers of homes lying empty by introducing council tax premiums and planning permission requirements for second homes and introducing mandatory premiums on long-term empty properties. 

💚 Tackle developer profiteering by requiring local authorities to set out clear guidance on developer profits with a maximum surplus of 15 per cent.

💚 Encourage more repair and renovation of existing housing by removing VAT on repair and refurbishment.

💚 Increase the stock of social housing by 150,000 homes a year (including by bringing empty homes back into use)

💚 Introduce building regulations requiring all new private and public sector housing to meet Passivhaus or equivalent standards and solar panels and heat pumps on all new homes

💚 Give local communities a stronger voice in housing developments by requiring housing provision targets to be based upon housing needs surveys produced or commissioned by local authorities and removing the ability of the Secretary of State to override decisions if they comply with an up-to-date and approved local plan

💚 Abolish the Right to Buy scheme and stop selling off publicly owned housing

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