by lesleybushnell on 31 December, 2017
In November 2017, the cross-party report on homelessness from the Public Accounts Committee was released. It stimulated a flurry of publicity on this national crisis as the huge scale of homelessness was revealed. It is scandalous that as of all the contributing causes, the two biggest culprits by far, are welfare reforms and a lack of social housing, according to associations such as Shelter and Crisis.
You might think that homelessness is restricted to the big cities. It is not. It is widespread. Although the image of homelessness usually conjures up people sleeping rough on the streets, it also includes people sleeping on friends’ sofas, tents or cars, families in B&B, teenagers in small rooms in hostels. That’s not even counting “children” staying with their parents into their thirties. All this is happening in our area too – though one of the richest parts of the country. In fact, it is a consequence of that affluence that drives up house prices, putting them out of reach for many people who want to live and work here.
In Mole Valley there has been a running total of over 1400 households on the housing register since 2003. The most common types of homes that become available are single bedroom units suitable for the over 55s. We desperately need more small unit houses for young families and single people, so they can afford to live and work here. If we do not, then this area will have no future. Yet in this time, Mole Valley has averaged of only 60 new homes completed per year for the whole region.
Mole Valley Liberal Democrats believe that there should be more houses for rent, including those via the Rural Exception Policy, because we think this is the most effective way of providing homes for those on low incomes.
The local Lib Dem position is clear with regard to protecting our green environment from developers who would happily concrete over as large an area as possible to meet perceived housing need. We maintain our opposition to developments in the Green Belt.
So, we were very concerned to hear that the Conservative-led District Council is carrying out a Greenfield Call for Sites between 11 December 2017 and 5 February 2018. This means that landowners and other interested parties are being invited to propose land and sites for development over the next 15 years. We are opposed to any large-scale development either in the Green Belt or beyond because of the potential loss of countryside and because our infrastructure of road and transport facilities are unable to cope with current demands let alone further significant development.
This has always been a difficult problem for this area, but Mole Valley Liberal Democrats believe there can be a balance between providing homes for local people and preserving our Green Belt and other Greenfield sites. This can be achieved with the right priorities:
We would say no to greedy developers who want to build on Greenfield sites with loss of our countryside and added pressure on our infrastructure and resources.
We would prioritise smaller, less expensive units designed for single people and young families, rather than the large houses that developers favour.
We would encourage more house building by the Council to replace the properties which have been sold.
With the right priorities, the support of local communities and forward-looking investment, we could solve the problem of homelessness in our area without encroaching on our countryside.
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