Build more council housing!
Labour will be looking in the run up to May’s local elections to hammer the Tories on their failed promises but one area this may backfire is housing.
Sheffield’s Labour led council has so far failed to deliver on its 2019 promise to double the number of houses built to tackle its ever-burgeoning waiting list.
Three years ago, the pledge was to build 3,200 units of social housing by 2026 – a doubling on its target at that time. Three years in and the Council’s efforts look well short of the mark.
Sheffield’s housing market still appears to run on the lines of “who can make the biggest profit” with planning permissions being granted for developments that fail to deliver the kind of affordable housing needed.
Labour has never addressed the historical loss of Right To Buy stock and back in 2019, the director of housing said: “We not only need to increase the range of general needs housing, we also need to provide the homes for older people, people who need specialist housing and that has not been coming forward through the private sector.
“So that is something that the council is really, really keen to do – that we have homes to meet everybody’s needs.”
The only needs it seems being met by a housing market dominated by old fashioned capitalism is the need to build high density housing to maximise developers’ profit margins.
Recent planning approvals have seen a swathe of high-rise blocks appear on the city centre skyline – some designed for a student population – while others are purely built on the build them quick and stack them high philosophy.
Prices are well out of the price range for families on the council’s waiting list or young families looking to buy their first home.
So living spaces for young couples with 2.4 children in a three-bed semi or town house will disappear as aggressive developers lie in wait to cash in when green belt planning rules are relaxed.
As for those homes needed for older people and specialist housing, again it seems that money talks and a lack of tighter rules to force a greater degree of affordable housing in significant developments – leaves the council’s pledge at severe risk.
The 2019 announcement was made by Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety, at a meeting to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Addison Act, which kick-started the large-scale delivery of council housing after World War I.
Now 104 years later and the housing market is a classic example of “for the few, not the many”. Profits for developers are sacrosanct while the housing needs of the many are relegated to a pipe dream.