West Cornwall MP, Andrew George has announced that he has chosen an 'Affordable Homes Bill' as his Private Members’ Bill.
After initially shortlisting three proposals for consideration (Affordable Homes, Health Care Standards, Cornish Assembly), Mr George then gave his constituents an opportunity for consultation prior to a final decision.
Mr George said: “I was amazed to receive over 2,000 comments and indications of support for one or other of the three proposed Bills. By a short margin it has become clear that the proposal for an Affordable Homes Bill was the most popular choice amongst constituents.
“Housing and the lack of affordable homes for local families remains the most pressing problem across West Cornwall and Scilly. The intention behind the Bill creates effective new tools to improve the ability of local communities to meet their need for affordable homes for local families.
“That doesn’t mean that places like Cornwall should be a developers’ paradise. Successive Governments have tried that for decades and it’s failed. Cornwall has been one of the fastest growing places in the UK – more than doubling its housing stock in the last half century – and yet the housing problems of locals have got worse.
“So this Bill would help families on local incomes by providing a stepping stone into the market with support for those who could manage a share of the equity of local homes. It would put a cap on the number of second homes and protect families from the disruption caused by the ‘spare room subsidy/bedroom tax’.”
Mr George’s Private Members’ Bill will include: - i) Extension of the Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme or the creation of a new Affordable Homes Investment Bank to underpin the ‘intermediate’ market (shared equity/shared ownership/mutual housing) to construct a new lower rung on the housing ladder for those who cannot afford the full cost of full market ownership housing.
ii) Negating an effect of the spare room subsidy/‘bedroom tax’ – on basis that poor families are as entitled to a stable family home as better off families. This would limit the bedroom tax to exclude those who have been living at an address for more than 3 years and where disabled adaptations have been completed iii) The introduction of a new ‘Use Class’ in the planning Use Classes Order for ‘non-permanent residential use’ (second homes) which would empower local planning authorities to control the number of second homes in their area.
iv) Enhance powers of compulsory purchase for local authorities where either developers land bank development sites or fail to use sites for which planning permission has been granted but developments not advanced or where need for affordable homes cannot be met on ‘exception’ sites through community land auctions/trusts.
Mr George said: “I have already begun the process of negotiating some of the provisions within this Bill with Government Ministers, Opposition “Shadow” Ministers and others to work out whether I would get the support necessary to get the Bill through Parliament. This will not be easy. My proposal to put a cap on the number of second homes has never been supported by the Conservatives and disappointingly, the Labour Party are not supportive either. The previous Labour Government sat on their hands when I previously took this proposal to them. Even this week, when I suggested this proposal to the Labour Party, it was met with a less than encouraging response.
“Coming top in the Private Members’ Bill ballot is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create new legislation that will benefit not just Cornwall and Scilly but the whole country. This is an opportunity that must be grasped. I hope that both the Conservatives and Labour now do the right thing and support my efforts to produce a Bill that will make a significant difference to the lives of millions of people across the country.”
Mr George says that there will be other ways he can advance the causes of both Health and Care Standards and a referendum on a Cornish Assembly.