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East Herts Liberal Democrats fail in bid to introduce new affordable housing policy

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Liberal Democrat efforts to implement a new social housing policy in East Herts have failed.

The party – the largest opposition group on the district council and led by Bishop’s Stortford's Cllr Mione Goldspink – argued for the definition of 'affordable homes' in East Herts to be linked to local people's average earnings, not market rents in the area.

Their motion was defeated by the majority Conservative group as part of the adoption of a new supplementary planning document to ensure consistency with the East Herts District Plan and the Government’s latest National Planning Policy Framework, setting expectations about what the council expects from developers. It updates guidelines set in 2008.

Chris Wilson (36252565)
Chris Wilson (36252565)

The administration said this would encourage “a more transparent and efficient negotiation process”.

Cllr Goldspink said: “The Conservatives’ definition of affordable housing is ‘that which is 80% of the cost of market prices’. Now we all know that we live in an area where house prices and rents are all extremely high, and 80% of these prices is still expensive and way beyond the reach of many people and really not affordable.

“Other councils have changed the definition of ‘affordable’ to link it to earnings, and this seems a much better way to make affordable housing available to everyone who needs it. If other councils have done it, why can’t East Herts?”

Wallfields, Hertford. Members of EHC Executive. .Cllr Peter Boylan. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (36252860)
Wallfields, Hertford. Members of EHC Executive. .Cllr Peter Boylan. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (36252860)

Cllr Chris Wilson, a fellow Bishop’s Stortford Lib Dem member, said: “With nurses’ average salaries being £24,000 and care workers £22,000, and the average salary needed to buy a house being £75,000, market home ownership is clearly beyond their reach.

“Similarly, wages in East Herts have only increased by 4% over the last five years, whilst rents have soared by a massive 29%.

"Changing to the system adopted by the West Midlands Combined Authority, which links affordability to earnings, would make it possible for affordable housing to be available to all who need it.”

The party argued that “poor definitions” would reduce the amount of truly affordable housing available.

Cllr Peter Boylan, East Herts Council's cabinet member for neighbourhoods, is currently preparing a report detailing how the authority will combat homelessness.

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