Lib Dem worry at shift in affordable housing policy

Malcolm Curnock
Malcolm Curnock

Officers were quizzed by Liberal Democrat councillors on changes to the council’s affordable housing policy at last week’s cabinet meeting.

They were asked why Horsham District Council had frozen a £2m scheme to buy up properties for those in need of social housing.

Malcolm Curnock (LDem, Broadbridge Heath) highlighted a recent survey that said it was now more expensive to rent than to buy an identical property in the South East.

He said: “Private rented housing is becoming as unaffordable as market properties.”

Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park), asked officers why the £2m scheme they had been stopped.

Officers replied that because of imminent delivery of around 100 affordable homes next year, they were exploring agreements with private landlords, but Mr Curnock felt this could strip the private market and push up rent prices.

He added: “We run the risk of pushing up our own costs if we take too much out of the private sector.”

Roger Arthur (Con, Chanctonbury), deputy leader and cabinet member for efficiency and resources, explained: “The rate of return is ten per cent when the houses are full. When it’s empty the rate of return is not very good at all.

“We are taking a step back just to see where the market is going.”

Ian Howard (Con, Southwater), cabinet member for living and working communities, said that the new preferred strategy would contain the same target for affordable housing, currently at 40 per cent.