LETTER: Delivering the homes we need

Your letters
Your letters

Horsham Labour Party are pleased to see an indication that Horsham District Council has finally recognised that there is a housing crisis in our District and has taken a step to deal with it. (‘Decline in affordable housing…’ WSCT 23March 2017).

The council’s investment in a new development of 17 flats at Bishops Weald has delivered the first council homes to be built in Horsham for decades. It is a welcome development which will ensure that more of those most severely affected by the crisis, and who the council has an immediate obligation to house, will be provided with a decent home, albeit temporarily.

Clearly, the council’s motivation to invest in this development was mainly financial. With rents in Horsham increasing at an alarming rate, the cost of placing those at risk of homelessness in temporary accommodation in the private sector is not sustainable; the council has, therefore, recognised that it needs alternatives to private sector provision to meet its statutory obligations to house those in most urgent need.

It is not just the council’s housing department that is struggling to cope with the overwhelming costs of housing in the private sector. As private sector rents and house prices spiral ever higher, real term pay levels at best remain static or, in many cases are in decline.

More and more working families have, therefore, to rely on benefits to meet their housing costs. Those that are unable to work and therefore rely entirely on benefits, are finding that rising rent levels and cuts to benefits are leaving them with insufficient money to pay their rent. To make ends meet, more and more people are having to apply to the council for Discretionary Housing Payments.

There is an urgent need for an alternative to the private-rented market in our town. We need more social rented housing that local people, in need of a decent, secure home for themselves and their families, can afford. Yet despite this need and the strains placed on council budgets, the councillors who make planning decisions are still failing to deliver the homes that our town needs.

Saxon Weald’s application to develop its Winterton Court site, which had twice been turned down by the planning committee, has been approved, but only after intervention by the planning inspector and after a reduction of 65 per cent in the number of affordable homes to be delivered on the site.

The councillors on the planning committee are completely out of touch with the real housing needs of our town. We are already seeing evidence of greater homelessness and more people at risk of homelessness, in Horsham.

Most of those at risk of homelessness are currently housed in the private rented sector. If the council does not take action to provide the affordable homes which their own research has identified are needed, the homelessness and housing crisis will get significantly worse.

The planning application for the land north of Horsham is currently being considered. Horsham Labour Party has repeatedly said that this development must deliver a minimum of 35 per cent genuinely affordable homes, and 50 per cent under the government’s flawed definition of affordable which includes starter homes for market sale.

As a result of significant pressure, the Government has withdrawn the requirement for those starter homes. There is, therefore, no excuse for not delivering at least the proportion of genuinely affordable homes required by council’s local plan. Horsham Labour Party believes that if this level of affordable housing cannot be delivered, the planning application should be turned down. Hundreds of people who have signed our petition agree with our view.

So come on Horsham council, at long last you have made a small step to address the worst aspects of the housing crisis, now is the time to act in the interests of the residents of Horsham and do more to deliver the homes we need.

Carol Hayton

Horsham Labour Party, Clarence Road, Horsham


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