Ex mayor’s £100k homes utopian dream in tatters
- Credit: John Elworthy
Former mayor James Palmer’s £100k homes scheme – vetoed by his successor - lay in ruins tonight after it was revealed that the first eight to be built remain empty.
Completed before Christmas, not one of the properties at Fordham is occupied.
Palmer’s successor, Dr Nik Johnson, remains perplexed but unable to discover why hold-ups have prevented anyone from moving in.
Dr Johnson has scrapped any future £100k homes, saying he has always “struggled to understand the model”.
My investigations show that banks and building societies might be struggling with the concept, too, since I understand all the delays have been due to conveyancing issues.
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I have spent weeks trying to interview the first occupants of the Fordham homes, following a promise made at the beginning of last year by Palmer’s former housing adviser, Charles Roberts.
Mr Roberts said the first new owners of the £100,000 one-bed flats at Fordham would move in by Christmas and he planned to invite me to interview them.
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However, when mayor Palmer left office in May – taking Mr Roberts with him – no call or contact with any of the lucky eight purchasers had been arranged.
Those eight had been selected, on merit, from a list of more than 200 initial applicants.
On June 21, I again asked the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) if anyone moved into the Fordham homes.
It took until today for a response – and an apology for the delay in responding.
“I’m sorry for the delay in replying to your emails,” said a CAPCA spokesperson.
“Please accept my apologies.”
The spokesperson confirmed that “you are correct -to date no one has moved into £100k Homes at Fordham”.
And the spokesperson added: “We are trying to find out what the hold-up might be.”
Other £100k homes in the pipeline will be allowed to complete – including four at the former Alexander House office complex in Ely.
Mayor Dr Johnson said: “I will look at how we can move forward with the existing parts of the project that are beyond recall, and look to deliver those houses that exist in one form or another.
“But I want to curtail the process quickly so that I can look at other ways to deliver socially affordable housing.”
Mayor Palmer had promised expansion of the £100k homes model whereby first-time buyers could get on the housing ladder with a formula to ensure an equitable split of profits when people sell up and move.
Labour criticised the £100K Homes policy, arguing that the need for affordable housing in the county ran into the thousands.
Labour said that “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.”
The party 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.”
Mr Palmer had argued that Labour were “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.”
The Fordham flats form part of a much larger housing scheme at the Rayners Green estate.
At a topping out ceremony last year, Mr Palmer said: “This is a truly momentous occasion, the birth of the first £100K homes.”