A voice at Westminster for Cumbrian rural housing issues
Published by Tracey Errington for Eden Housing Association Limited in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
westminster visited by Cumbrian housing leaders
Cumbria’s housing leaders visited Westminster for a round table discussion with Cumbrian MP’s. It provided a platform to voice concern about the effects that current national housing policies are having on Cumbrian communities.
The event, arranged by the National Housing Federation aimed to bring key issues to the table, with discussions focusing on the Right to Buy, Spare Room Subsidy (more commonly referred to as the bedroom tax) and future development of affordable homes.
The Westminster round table discussion was hosted by Tim Farron MP. Other Cumbrian MPs attending were Sir Tony Cunningham MP and John Woodcock MP. John Clasper, MD at Eden Housing Association was part of a group representing the interests of Cumbria and included colleagues from South Lakes Housing, Impact, Home Housing, Your Housing, Riverside and the National Housing Federation.
On Right to Buy, the group recognised that this policy has been a key plank in creating mixed communities and has assisted people over the years to get on the property ladder, but this has left many rural parts of Cumbria without sufficient decent and affordable rented housing. South Lakeland in 1980’s had strong social rented stock representing some 7,500 units, today it has reduced to around 4,500 yet the waiting list has trebled.
The group asked MPs to consider the introduction of designating areas as ‘Pressured Area Status’ that would allow restrictions on the Right to Buy in areas like the Lake District National Park. The idea of a form of transferrable discount for tenants wishing to own was discussed, which would still enable the support of tenant aspirations, yet ensuring protection of the social housing in these locations.
On the very contentious issue of bedroom tax, MPs were informed that the policy is unfair on tenants in rural locations where historically social homes were been built as family size homes to enable flexibility at various stages of a household change.
John Clasper Managing Director at Eden Housing Association said “judging by our recent turnover, if every household affected by bedroom tax wished to move it would take over 15 years for sufficient suitably sized property to become available. Even then, the location of the ‘correct’ sized property is unlikely to match with schools, family and support networks and the like.”
MP’s were asked to consider allowing for one extra bedroom to be allowable in rural areas and also to extend the Discretionary Housing Payment fund that at least is providing some temporary respite for those households affected.
Finally, the group requested that more was done around the release of government land at sensible prices and grant allocations that reflect the unique rural geography.
The National Housing Federation is currently putting together a paper summarising the key points. The Cumbrian MPs have promised to share these concerns and consider as part of the development of new policy thoughts in the lead up to the next general election.
Evaluating the success of the trip to London John Clasper said “Close to an election we are unlikely to see any dramatic changes in policy, but I would hope that reviewing and expanding the discretionary housing payments is something that can happen before the election. It will make a big difference to many Cumbrian tenants.”