Come and see the region’s housing crisis for yourself and loosen Whitehall’s grip on control - that is the message a North East housing chief sends today to a Government minister.
Bill Midgley, chairman of Newcastle-based Leazes Homes, is calling for Housing Minister Brandon Lewis to visit the North East as he lists a raft of issues the Coalition has failed to tackle.
He lambasted the Government for “neglecting” to build homes in the North East, with single-parent families said to be the most in need.
He also lashed out at Right To Buy - a publicly subsidised scheme which lets council tenants buy at a discount after five years in their home, saying it was diminishing the region’s social housing stock.
He added that Coalition policies targeted market issues in the Tory-dominated South, further exacerbating social housing problems here and making it vital that future decisions are made by a regional power.
“I examined the Chancellor’s autumn statement with interest following a disappointing party conference season devoid of the strong, meaningful proposals necessary to tackle the housing crisis,” he said.
“While I was pleased to see discussions around housing firmly on the agenda, I was frustrated to note that the Government is perpetuating solutions to problems that exist in the South and neglecting to consider localised offers that could better respond to the specific situation we’re experiencing in our region.
“Changes made to speed up the process of developing more housing are of course welcome and the relaxing of local authority borrowing caps will go some way to providing much-needed accommodation, but this needs to be more than political rhetoric to have an impact.”
Mr Midgley said Chancellor George Osborne’s tweaking of the stamp duty system will “mean very little” to first-time buyers and have little impact for social housing.
He said: “Stamp Duty is obviously an issue for lots of people and the changes made to the system are of course a positive move. But, for those for whom home ownership is largely unattainable, a reduction in the tax on properties valued over £125,000 will mean very little.
“The only targeted measure proposed to help social housing tenants relates to mortgage finance support that would facilitate more home purchases through the Right To Buy scheme.
“Although helpful to some, this is not without its problems – these homes are subsidised by public money and removing them from council housing stock further reduces available housing for those in need.”
He added that housing will play a vital role in aiding the North East’s economic recovery and called for bespoke policies for Newcastle and the North East.
“We have a very specific situation here in the North East and successive London-centric policies have failed to acknowledge this over recent years.
“We need the ability to build more houses to respond to changes in our population and the increasing number of single family units,” he said.
“We also need to consider that our population is ageing and facilities more attuned to these needs must be factored in.
“The Minister for Housing has been changed on a number of occasions since the election and this has resulted in a continuous lack of understanding of the problems faced by our region.
“I strongly urge Mr Lewis MP to take the time to visit us here in Newcastle so he can truly appreciate the situation we’re facing and work with us to find relevant solutions.”
(comment still to come from Local Government and Communities dept)