Labour supports the delivery of new genuinely affordable housing at social rent levels and will push the Council and its partners to be far more ambitious in its plans. There are currently 397 overcrowded families waiting for social housing in the Borough, up from 34 in 2012. The record of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Town and Country Housing Group (now merged with Peabody) in delivering affordable housing in recent years has been abysmal. In 2017-18 they built 48 new housing units – 33 for social rent and 15 for shared ownership. In March 2018 they had 184 properties under construction with a future target of 300 per year. There are almost 1000 households on the current housing waiting list with an average wait of up to 2 years. Many are stuck in unsuitable temporary housing for lengthy periods of time mainly outside of the Borough, with lives on hold and facing upheaval. There is no urgency on the part of the Conservative administration to solve this crisis and they lack the political will and ambition to find real solutions.
Delivering new genuinely affordable homes
Buying: Tunbridge Wells Borough Council should ensure that developers include a significant proportion of genuinely affordable homes in all schemes of more than ten units. Major development should be accompanied by necessary improvements to local infrastructure including shops, community facilities, GP surgeries, public transport and school places. We will work with housing associations, private developers and national government initiatives to provide new genuinely affordable homes throughout our borough. For too long developers have been able to avoid fulfilling their duty to provide sufficient affordable housing and infrastructure contributions on grounds of viability.
Renting: We will explore ways in which those in the Private Rented Sector can be better supported such as through landlord licensing schemes which have been put in place in other areas. We also want to see more rigorous enforcement of good homes’ standards and scrutiny of the quality of maintenance services provided by social landlords.
We will give a voice to the many residents struggling to afford to live in the Borough where they work or grew up. Rents are high and despite a recent slow down the average property costs 12 times average wages earned by residents. Local people are frustrated at seeing so much luxury housing development across the Borough that most local people cannot afford. Such developments are focused primarily on the housing needs of the well-off and securing high profits for developers. They offer little real social value for the local community.
Unaffordability undermines the fabric of rural communities as people are no longer be able to afford to live in the community that they have grown up in. Lack of affordable housing in rural areas is particularly acute and providing new genuinely affordable options outside of urban Tunbridge Wells is a key priority for Labour.
Homes fit for the future
New homes should be fit for the future and meet the needs of all residents for their whole lives. In an age where life expectancy is continuing to rise homes need to be adaptable so that residents who get mobility limiting disabilities can continue to live there. Ensuring a new home can be fully adaptable only costs around an additional £1500 and we believe that all new homes should meet these minimum standards as it saves money in the long term.
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