Let’s face the facts, our housing market is broken. We haven’t been building enough homes for decades and it’s led to house prices growing faster than incomes and spiralling rent increases hitting families across our county.
It’s time to turn this around and build on the success of developments like the picturesque village of Cambourne and the growing community in Hampton. I want to help deliver the homes we need to meet demand, encourage investment and boost opportunities for everyone in our county. Since 2010, Conservatives in Government have introduced schemes such as Help to Buy, which has helped hundreds of thousands of households get on the housing ladder, while Right to Buy has made it easier for people to buy their council house. But there is more to do and the Government is determined to build a stronger, fairer Britain and fix our broken housing market.
Major progress was made this week when the government announced a White Paper which sets out ambitious, lasting reform that covers the whole of the house building process. From finding sites, to getting planning permission, and then actually building homes, this Conservative Government will take action so that it is easier, and quicker to get homes built in the places that they are needed most.
If elected as the Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in May, I will work with councils, community groups and MPs to make a plan to deal with the housing pressures across our region. Only then we can tackle the next, most frustrating, barrier in our housing market: the speed the homes are built once planning permission is granted.
We will invest in making the planning system more open and accessible, improve the co-ordination of public investment in infrastructure, support timely connections to utilities, and tackle unnecessary delays by giving councils and developers the tools they need to build more swiftly.
There will also be plenty of opportunities for businesses across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to take advantage of these plans. The housing market will be diversified, opening it up to smaller, local builders and those who embrace innovative and efficient methods. Housing associations and local authorities will also be encouraged to build more, and there will be work to attract new investors into residential development including homes for rent.
But none of these plans will come to the detriment of the Green Belt. Only in exceptional circumstances will councils be allowed to alter Green Belt boundaries after consulting local people and submitting revised Local Plans for examination.
We’ve already secured huge sums of money as part of the devolution deal for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough which includes £170 million for affordable housing, including £100 million for affordable, rent and shared ownership. I’m acutely aware of the specific housing needs in every corner of our county and the proposals include a specific £70 million fund to meet housing needs in Cambridge which could be spent on new council housing to help meet demand.
Community Land Trusts also play a part in my vision to help meet our housing needs. Under my leadership of East Cambridgeshire District Council, we’ve provided advice to communities wanting to build homes to meet local demand. As a result, the Manor Farm development in Stretham will deliver 75 homes to the community, 23 of which will be owned by the community and affordable in perpetuity. These trusts give communities the chance to control what they see built in their neighbourhood and I want to champion this approach across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
I won’t shy away from tackling the issues facing our housing market but I know it won’t be a quick or easy fix. I’m confident the situation in our region can be turned around to ensure our communities continue to thrive. This Conservative government’s new housing white paper combined with the funding we’ve secured through devolution will help build a housing market that works for everyone in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. If elected as Mayor in May, I’ll work hard to deliver the homes we need, where they are needed.