Local campaigner Tom Mellish addressed the January meeting of Canterbury City Council on the chronic lack of social housing accross the district. His intervention followed a petition signed by hundreds of Herne Bay residents on the lack of decent affordable homes.
His speech was as follows:
‘Thank you Lady Mayoress for allowing the time to present this petition from Herne Bay Labour Party gathered at a regular Saturday morning stall in November. The petition of 119 signatures states:
“Across the Canterbury City Council District, we have people desperate for housing and many paying high rents for unsuitable accommodation. (Pause)
We therefore call on Canterbury City Council to do all in its power to support the building of council housing and to ensure that new ‘affordable’ homes are realistically priced. (Pause)
We also call on them to further support policies that restrict private landlords from imposing high rents to all privately rented accommodation”
Cost of Housing
The cost of housing has gone through the roof in recent years. It is harder for young people and those on low income or insecure employment, such as zero-hour contracts, to get in to the housing market.
The most recent available figures – from the data website Home.Co – show that from January 2014 to September 2017, there has been an overall rise in house prices in Herne Bay of 34% while for flats the rise was 74%. Far more than any rise in income. The average price of a flat in Herne Bay is now over £187,000. In Canterbury the rise was 9%. The current average price is £185,000.
With the average mortgage rate at 4.6%, a £170,000 flat will cost a first-time buyer over £617 per month. (Pause)
In the excellent August 2017 report “Canterbury District Customer and Community Profile – People Places Prosperity” the Council reported that Canterbury property prices are on average £55,000 higher and rents are around £54 per week more expensive than the East Kent average.
The report also notes that the lower quartile house price to income ratio in the Canterbury District is 13: 1.
The PCT has reported on the number of inadequate & dilapidated privately rented flats within Herne Bay and Canterbury leading to health inequalities and shortened life expectancy.
It is clear that the housing market is failing the needs of the people of Canterbury, and that affordable to buy housing is only part of the answer.
Role of Council
With over 1700 people on the Housing Needs Register, Canterbury City Council, while working with other housing providers, needs to play a central role in the building and provision of council, or social housing, at affordable rents.
The Council’s Housing Strategy, revised in August 2015, needs a radical revision to reflect the pivotal role of the Council and not its current reliance on the private sector.
To help finance a radical house building programme, the Council should take advantage of the changes to the Council Tax cap and the 100% retention of business rates, and make greater use of empty dwelling management orders to bring the 400 plus registered empty properties in the District back in to housing use.
While noting the difficult times for local authorities, this council will be only too aware from its own surveys that access to affordable housing is a priority for the residents of Canterbury District