Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Newspaper column 4 January 2017 - Money for affordable housing in Cornwall

I hope that, like me, you have had an enjoyable Christmas and New Year. It was great to be able to spend time at home and catch up with family and friends.

I want to start by wishing everyone in Mid-Cornwall a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.
Just before Christmas the Government made an important announcement confirming that money will be made available to specifically address the challenges Cornwall faces in providing housing that is affordable to local people.

Over many years now we have watched as house prices in Cornwall have risen and are now beyond the reach of most local people on average incomes. Much of this rise locally has been fuelled by people buying up our local housing stock for holiday homes or investment properties. Many people have been calling for some action for a long time but it is good to at last see that this Government is acting to address this issue.

In the 2015 Autumn Statement the then Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a new stamp duty levy on properties bought that were not for the purchaser’s main residence. This includes all types of 2nd homes – holiday homes, investment and buy to let properties. An additional 3% has been charged on the purchase of all such properties since April last year. When it was announced, the Chancellor stated that this money would be specifically ring fenced to help to provide affordable housing in places such as Cornwall.

It was pleasing therefore to have confirmation last month that the first tranche of money will now be made available with Cornwall being allocated just over £5 million in the first round.

This money will be made available through Cornwall Council to local schemes that seek to provide housing for local people at below market values through schemes such as Community Land Trusts.

Some have argued that £5 million will not go very far. But it has to be acknowledged that this is the first time any Government has taken direct action to specifically address the housing challenges we face here in Cornwall. After many years of talking I am delighted to be part of the Government that is at last acting.

It is also important to recognise that this is a substantial part of the total national pot of £60 million and is way beyond what we would have normally expected to receive as a share of a national scheme but is clearly a sign that the challenges we face here in Cornwall are recognised.

This is the first round of funding and there will be much more to come in the years ahead. What is important now is that we spend this money wisely and use it in conjunction with private sector funding to provide as many homes for local people as possible.

Future funding will partly depend on how well this first tranche of money is spent and so I will be doing all I can to make sure the Council use it well. I will also be keen to work with any local people who wish to develop Community Land Trust housing in mid-Cornwall.