‘Don’t blame local councils for housing shortage’

Cllr Vic Ient: 'The housing crisis is a Conservative creation'
Cllr Vic Ient: 'The housing crisis is a Conservative creation'

Local authorities should not take the blame for the housing shortage, a Lewes Liberal Democrat councillor said this week.

Cllr Vic Ient was speaking in response to newspaper reports that Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Housing, had promised to speed up the flow of housing completions.

Cllr Ient said the MP had threatened local councils if they don’t meet their targets.

He told the Sunday Times Times he would be “breathing down the necks” of local authorities to ensure building targets, set by the Government, are met.

Cllr Ient said: “Accusing local councils of not doing their job will not help and indeed Mr Javid should not lay the problem at the door of the councils. The housing crisis is a Conservative creation.

“Margaret Thatcher withdrew the rights of councils to borrow money to build council houses back in the 1980s and no Government since then has had the guts to reverse this harsh legislation.

“Until this policy is reversed we will continue to have problems in delivering enough affordable houses for our citizens to live in.”

He said that despite many promises over nearly three years since the Conservatives came to power in 2015 and a new Act of Parliament designed to speed up the housing supply passed in 2016 the Conservatives are still no further forward in improving the supply of new homes, especially affordable homes.

Cllr Ient continued: “Mr Javid has got one thing right in his latest pronouncements – and that is a crackdown on the loophole which allows developers to get out of building the originally agreed levels of affordable homes currently.

“I know because I sit on the Planning Applications Committee of Lewes District Council. Developers, despite getting planning permission for say 25 per cent or 40 per cent of affordable homes, come back to the council at a later date calling on the so-called viability test.

“This is a loophole which enables developers to get out of building the number of affordable homes they were originally given planning permission for.

“Let’s hope Mr Javid sticks to his guns and closes this loophole. This will be a move in the right direction, but the Conservative government should have the courage to reverse the Margaret Thatcher legislation and allow councils to build social housing which is really affordable and will meet the needs of the chronic housing waiting list in many areas.”