The council housing supply in Crawley is under ever increasing pressure. When Labour took control of the council we changed the rules to ensure local people who had lived in Crawley for five years or more would get priority for council housing and since then we've been working to build 1,000 new affordable houses. Yet, with Crawley built up to its borders, the shortage of new space for housing pushes up house prices, and subsequently private rental prices, increasing the demand for council housing.
It really is disappointing to see the government introduce new laws that will further reduce the amount of council houses in Crawley. The Housing and Planning Bill’s supposed aim is to increase home ownership, but by reducing council house numbers, it’ll force more Crawley residents into the private rental market and ensure they have to wait much longer to save up a deposit for a home of their own.
Under these new rules the council is required to sell its most 'expensive' homes and pass the money back to Government. Even if the council got to keep the money, with nowhere to build replacement properties in Crawley all this will mean a loss of Crawley's council houses.
The new rules will also force those earning above a certain amount, and we're not talking a fortune here, that live in council housing to pay a penalty. This sends out the wrong message and is likely to result in further council house sales, again leaving the town worse off for housing and without the space to replace lost units.
The worst impacts of the changes come from extending the right to buy to housing associations. In my ward in Broadfield many of the houses are owned by the Guinness Trust. Whilst the individual tenants would rightly be delighted that they can have permanent security of ownership, the truth is that Crawley cannot afford a further flood of social housing leaving the system when the need greatly exceeds what we can replace. If things continue this way the next generation of Crawley residents will be stuck privately renting single rooms in houses of multiple occupancy for most of their lives. Is that what we want for our kids and grandkids?
You would think that a bill so damaging to Crawley would not have the support of our local MP, but instead Henry Smith is leading this bill through Parliament as the recently appointed bag carrier for the relevant Secretary of State. I can only assume that he has forgotten the needs of local people in his climb up the greasy pole.
Cllr Tim Lunnon