Councillor for Northgate ward, and leader of the Labour Group, Alan Baldock, has written to the Kentish Gazette urging the Council to be bolder when it comes to developing housing in the district.
Last week, Canterbury’s Chief Executive stated in the Kentish Gazette, that the thousands of new homes needed are a “big ask”. Labour believes that Canterbury residents are worth such a “big ask,” as it isn’t really too much to hope, in this day and age, that everyone is provided with affordable, dignified accommodation. Now is the opportunity to radically rethink how and where we build those homes and communities and to link them with an integrated system of transport. It may be a “big ask” indeed, but let’s be a bit radical and make a start, let’s establish a working integrated transport hub in advance of significant future development, and redefine “affordable” so that truly affordable homes are built in the next Local Plan.
Let’s use the practical experiences of local families and businesses to help, set up an independently run event to get both radical and new ideas on an integrated transport system for this District. Joined up public transport is vital to meet climate change targets and to simultaneously cope with a huge increase in population, after all we share the problem and the solution. The suggested couple of extra bus stops, and the excuse for a misplaced multi-story car park at Canterbury West Station, do not constitute, in my opinion, the integrated transport hub our District deserves: it needs to be radical and inclusive.
Homes to rent or buy from the private sector are unaffordable to huge numbers of families working in this District, an area blighted by the high cost of housing and low wages. The term “affordable housing,” referred to triumphantly in a planning application, is defined as being about 80% of the market rate to buy or rent. Social Rent (Council house rent) on the other hand is much more affordable for those on low pay or unsecure employment. Unfortunately, there is a chronic short supply of Social Housing due to years of Local Authority underfunding and the effects of “right to buy’. It is definitely not the same as “affordable”. This month, Labour Councillors will be asking Canterbury City Council to redefine “affordable” in its Local Plan and Policies. It is possible to base a new definition on median house prices and disposable income resulting in a more meaningful definition of “affordable” that would bring a degree of sanity to the market over time and make “affordable” a home reality.