'False hope' 'gimmick' or 'innovative' - conflicting claims over £100k homes
Ben Hatton - Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Archant
A Conservative policy to build homes available to buy at £100,000 across Cambridgeshire is giving “false hope” and would take “one thousand years” to house all the families in need in the area, Labour has said.
The Conservative mayoral candidate, the incumbent James Palmer, has touted the £100K Homes policy as an example of an “innovative” solution to the housing need in the area, and made it a key policy in his campaign for the May 6 election.
Mr Palmer dismissed the Labour criticism as “panic”, claiming they are “worried” because the policy will deliver affordable homes for purchase to “the people the Labour party has completely forgotten about”.
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The idea behind the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority’s £100K Homes policy is that as part of a new development’s affordable housing provision developers can offer homes available to purchase for £100,000 regardless of their market assessed value, and the discount applied – for example 50 per cent of market value – will stay with the property when it is resold.
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The combined authority confirmed on April 15 that eight have been completed so far, in Fordham, and a further eight are under construction, four in Ely and four in Great Abington, with a further three allocated for Cambridge city.
Mr Palmer has said that now he has “proved the concept”, if he is re-elected, he will use the mandate to “request and ensure” that 10 per cent of all homes built in the county are available for purchase for £100,000 to first time buyers.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have criticised the £100K Homes policy for delivering eight homes so far, when the need for affordable housing in the county has been estimated in the thousands.
“Sounds too good to be true? It is” Labour’s mayoral campaign team said of Mr Palmer’s proposal. They said the policy has delivered eight £100K Homes in four years.
“The waiting list for houses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is over two thousand families. At a rate of two houses per year, it would take Mr Palmer’s £100K scheme one thousand years to house these families.”
Labour also said “£8 million in loans were taken for the building of these £100K homes from the precious £100 million central government funding intended for the building of two thousand affordable homes in Cambridgeshire.
“No wonder that the government blocked £45 million and potentially prevented one thousand new affordable homes because – as they wrote to Mr Palmer – the value for money of the programme he is running has failed the test of good use of public money.”
Labour’s candidate for mayor, Nik Johnson, said comments in a BBC hustings where Mr Palmer championed the concept as a way to provide more affordable homes “made me angry”.
He said it “will have given false hope to thousands waiting for a truly affordable home in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”.
He added that Mr Palmer’s “actions during his term as mayor have greatly hampered the building of affordable building in the Greater Cambridgeshire and squandered money from central government, including the government not paying over £45 million that was due to fund 1,000 affordable homes, not eight”.
Cllr Johnson said that if elected he will build council homes and will work with councils to ensure that all new developments have a 50 per cent affordable housing requirement.
Mr Palmer said: “Labour are scared to death of the £100K Home policy because when they used to be a party of the working class they used to put forward policies that help the working class.
“Now they are a party of the rich liberal elite, they have completely lost touch with what the other people, working people, need”.
He added: “£100K Homes are the homes that our people want and need. And the policy that we have had over the last 20-30 years, the national policy, simply hasn’t delivered what the people need.
“And the people who always miss out are those people in work on low pay, and they are the people who don’t get help, and they are the people the Labour party has completely forgotten about”.
He said there are 21 £100K Homes in the combined authority pipeline which will be delivered at “zero cost to the taxpayer”, because loans provided to the developers will be repaid “with interest”.
Addressing criticism of the wider affordable housing programme, he said the combined authority has delivered starts on site for 780 affordable homes in his mayoral term.
He said the government has said “very clearly” it will fund the remaining affordable homes in the combined authority pipeline, and that a total of 2,000 will be achieved by March 2022 as per the devolution deal.
He said “£45 million hasn’t been withheld. The government is working with us to deliver the money”.
The government said earlier this year it would not continue to fund the combined authority’s affordable housing programme “on its current basis” because “insufficient delivery progress and that the value for money being achieved is below our expectations”.
£45 million of a £100 million funding agreement has not yet been provided.
The government said it is “committed to enabling investment in schemes that will deliver further affordable housing, at pace, in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough”.
The Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor, Aidan Van de Weyer, has called the £100K Homes policy a “gimmick”, and criticised the number of homes it has delivered.
He said each £100K Home has required a £1 million loan and “tied up” capital that could be used to help deliver up to 30 affordable homes.
“There is no real prospect” more £100K Homes will be built, he said.
He said the solution to the area’s housing problem is to build more affordable homes and “make sure people can get easily to and from work”.
When asked whether or not the outstanding £45 million would be provided, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said “The programme was behind schedule and not on track to deliver value for money.
“We remain committed to the devolution deal, and will continue to work with the combined authority to consider if further funding can be made available to support the delivery of more affordable housing in the local area.”