Housing is one of the most important issues I care about in North Norfolk. The ability for people to get on the housing ladder and achieve a good job are two of the biggest priorities we all face, and this is why they are also my two biggest priorities.
We all agree there needs to be more affordable homes built. In North Norfolk last year there were 546 homes built and just 90 were affordable. 16% is not enough to satisfy the demand of people wanting to live, work and raise their families in this beautiful area. The issue is complex, market forces dictate that we live in an area with one of the highest proportions of house price growth to wage rates – meaning for so many people getting a foot on the ladder is virtually impossible without significant help or a large deposit.
But there are things we can do. The Government’s website www.helptobuy.gov.uk is a very useful resource giving helpful advice of the many ways to owning your own home. It explains Help to Buy: Shared Ownership and Help to Buy: Equity Loans which have helped so many people achieve their home owning dream.
But I would do more. In an area where we have many people doing vital jobs such as farming the land or working in the NHS; such as care or nursing, due to our elderly demographics, I would champion key worker schemes. This would ensure those in lower paid roles that are so important to our communities, can get a foothold on the property market. These have been successful in other parts of the country, prohibiting cheaper properties being snapped up by investors and instead allowing teachers, nurses, fire fighters to buy when they otherwise couldn’t afford to.
I would bring developers to book who flagrantly wriggle out of their responsibility to deliver an acceptable number of affordable homes on housing developments. I see it happen time after time and it must stop, by the planners being robust and strong with their planning permissions.
I am not against 2ndhomes, after all we live in a free market economy but if you can afford to own a 2ndhome you can afford to pay council tax on it. Villages like Blakeney for instance have 49% of their properties now as 2ndhomes. Some are only visited a few times a year. This has implications to the wider population of villages like this. Businesses aren’t sustainable, the villages are empty at certain times of the year and young people are prevented from buying the housing stock. I would not be adverse to generating a greater council tax from these properties to enhance facilities and services in our constituency.
Lastly, I think that new housing must be of the right mix and in the right place. It must not be allowed to ruin the character of our towns and villages. We must preserve this area of outstanding natural beauty and new buildings must complement the areas we live in. One way to help do this is through the careful delivery of a well thought out Local Plan. NNDC will soon have their Local Plan ready in the next year that will provide the planning policy context for development across the whole of North Norfolk for the period up to 2036. I look forward to scrutinising this and championing the cause to make sure we have enough affordable homes for our residents.