West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, has called for changes to planning law to help counter the ongoing crisis in affordable homes.
Speaking following a visit of Housing Minister Kris Hopkins MP to housing development sites in Cornwall, Mr George said: “Like others before him, the Conservative Housing Minister appears to endorse a pattern of growing second home ownership in Cornwall but, in contrast seems complacent about the desperate need of thousands of local families for affordable housing.
“He seems to believe, like others, that simply building thousands more houses is the solution to the shortage of affordable homes. But Cornwall has grown faster than almost anywhere else in the UK – In the last 40 years the housing stock has more than doubled – and yet the housing problems of locals have got much worse.
“28,000 households are on the Cornwall Homechoice register. From that register there are 2,000 new lettings per year. For the period of 2010-13, 2,262 affordable houses were completed. In the meantime, the need grows at a greater pace than it is being resolved. We’re still scratching the surface.
“In high house price/low wage areas like Cornwall – where four times more homes are sold to second home buyers than first time buyers – intermediate market solutions like shared ownership and restricted ownership affordable homes for locals with planning are often the only way for people to get on the property ladder, but government rules mean that the Help to Buy scheme cannot help them.
“It may sound counter intuitive, but the best way of meeting local housing need and to build homes which are generally affordable to local people on local earnings is to choose a low housing development figure, to suppress the massive ‘hope’ value on so much land in Cornwall, but to only permit those developments which meet a local need.
“If market housing is too pricey in Cornwall then the best way of controlling that is to control second home ownership. I have long proposed that there should be a planning law which allows local authorities to restrict the numbers of second homes by forcing would-be second home owners to apply for planning permission for a “change of use” from permanent to non-permanent occupation of a residential property.
“So, unless the Government look at changing the rules here, they are effectively restricting their own efforts to improve affordable housing. We still need more affordable homes – in the right place, with the right rules and the right set of policies.
“Cornwall must not become a developers’ paradise, or a paradise for second home owners. Cornwall must instead become a place where those who really need affordable housing must get a better opportunity to get on the housing ladder.”