Proper council housing is key to providing security

First published in Salisbury Letters

IT is good to see Wiltshire Council is planning to build new council houses and I note John Glen MP embraces that. I would like to remind him of some facts about affordable housing in this area that he has failed to mention.

- Salisbury and south Wiltshire is the only area in Wiltshire with any council houses left. The rest were sold off very cheaply by his Conservative colleagues, mostly to housing associations.

- Only action by Labour locally and the tenants themselves averted a similar sell- off to housing associations by Tories in Salisbury. They were going to sell them for as little as £5,000 each.

- All new Wiltshire Council houses built under the Coalition Government have come about through schemes funded by the previous Labour government.

- The current government cut the budget to the Homes and Communities Agency by 50 per cent in its first year, virtually stopping housing associations from building new homes overnight and helping to choke those early signs of economic growth.

- The current government charged Wiltshire Council £124m for the council houses the council had maintained all along, leaving the council with that debt and interest payments.

- 40 per cent of today’s housing benefit is paid to private landlords whose rents are considerably higher than social rents.

- That much-applauded investment in council housing in Wiltshire by Wiltshire Council will be mainly funded by our local council tenants’ rents.

With low income families under increasing pressure, we need new, good quality council housing more than ever and that new housing has to be proper council housing, with secure tenancy - not fixed term tenures (which take away security from tenants and hinders social development and community sustainability).

We must never forget that post war council housing provided long term homes and hope for millions of families; created sustainable communities and kept the benefit bill low. I hope that many new council houses are built throughout Wiltshire.

Ian Tomes

Wiltshire and Salisbury City councillor

I WAS pleased to see John Glen MP’s recognition of the importance of affordable housing (Journal, June 26).

He will, therefore, no doubt wish to persuade ministers of the folly of their proposal to introduce a 10 unit limit for Section 106 affordable housing contributions.

Under current policy a developer undertaking a small development might be required to make one or two of them available for purchase by a housing association so that they can be let at affordable rents.

The Government is proposing to stop this happening by freeing developers of this obligation below a 10 unit threshold.

Wiltshire Rural Housing Association builds homes for rent by local people in villages throughout Wiltshire.

Section 106 contributions are an important source of our houses. Developments in villages are often for 10 units or less.

The result of the Government’s policy will be that there are fewer affordable houses to rent in villages, further undermining the vitality and viability of village communities.

The Government should either drop the proposal altogether or exempt rural areas.

Mike Ash

Bishopstone

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