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City council declares housing crisis

Published on Thursday, November 24, 2022

2 minute read

Aerial view of houses in Saffron estate

RADICAL steps to address the housing crisis in Leicester are being set out in a new action plan by Leicester City Council.

The authority is declaring a housing crisis and is calling for urgent action from central Government to ease pressure caused by the growing demand for affordable, decent housing.

Factors including the loss of thousands of council homes under the Government’s Right to Buy scheme, a growing population and the cost of living crisis mean that thousands of families in the city are in desperate need of homes.

The housing crisis declaration will be made at a meeting of Full Council on November 24.

Leicester assistant city mayor for housing, Cllr Elly Cutkelvin, said: “Central government have failed to deliver their social housing build target for over 50 years.

“There has not been a proper programme of social house building since the end of the second world war.

“Government funding mechanisms and planning legislation make it difficult for local authorities to mitigate against the loss of housing stock through the Government’s Right to Buy scheme, leaving us with significantly reduced council house stock levels.

"In 2015, the Government lifted the borrowing cap which has enabled us to borrow money to build council homes, but we are competing against large corporate developers which are driven by profit.

“With the economy in recession and the construction industry on its knees, it looks impossible for us to respond to the housing crisis swiftly – we need the Government to create the right circumstances for a mass programme of social house building.”

The council is calling for the Government to end its Right to Buy scheme, which has led to the loss of almost 20,000 council houses in Leicester since it was introduced in the 1980s – meaning vital social housing has been lost.

It also wants to see £12.8 billion of Government funding to enable 150,000 social rental homes to be built every year over the next 10 years to break the back of the national housing crisis.

Other measures include calling on the Government to announce the next 10 years of its affordable housing programme now, rather than in smaller tranches, to allow councils to plan ahead, and for more of that money to be used for genuinely affordable rented housing.

Funding should also be made available to retro-fit council housing with measures to cut carbon emissions and boost energy efficiency which are needed to deliver the city’s commitment to net zero. Additional Government help is also needed to develop brownfield sites for much-needed housing.

Other measures being put forward include creating a national landlords’ register, ending ‘no fault’ evictions, tightening up the laws around holiday homes and giving councils the power to charge and set their own levels of council tax on second homes, as is the case in Wales.

In addition to demanding change from the Government, the city council is also setting out its own targets over the next 10 years.

Measures include incentives for council tenants to downsize and free up homes for families; delivery of more environmentally-sustainable housing developments, along with a tougher stance on poor quality private sector rentals, unauthorised developments and planning breaches.

The city council has also pledged to continue to bring more empty homes back into use, to review sites earmarked on its Local Plan to bring more into use for housing and to encourage more housing development on brownfield sites.

The programme of action is now being drawn up, along with measures to monitor how the objectives are met.