Lib Dems: “Guildford Council has let down those in housing need”

February 14, 2011 11:42 AM

There are 3964 applicants on Guildford's Housing Registers, in need of affordable rented or low-cost shared-ownership homes, an increase of 361 in three years. Yet Guildford Borough Council has provided only 232 extra affordable homes since 2008, and expects to provide just 64 in 2011/12. Liberal Democrat councillors speaking at last Thursday's Borough Council meeting condemned the poor record of the Conservative-run Council over the last four years, saying they had let down those in housing need.

Lib Dem Housing spokesperson Cllr Mary Laker proposed a motion to significantly increase the provision of new affordable homes over the next four years by direct development - the Council could build its own rented social housing on Council-owned land, and also set up a Community Interest Company to build homes for low-cost shared ownership.

Explaining the need for affordable housing, Cllr Laker said "In Guildford we have 34% of our work force earning less than £20,000 a year. A two bedroom house in the Guildford area costs approximately £228,000. If one looks at the calculation of 40% deposit and three times annual salary, a third of our residents would not achieve home ownership without help. In the private sector rent for a two bedroom house is £187 per week or £748 per month. The need for more affordable housing is well established."

£10.4 million has been taken out of the Council's Housing Reserves and 'loaned' to the construction costs of the new entertainment venue (G Live). Cllr Laker called for a clear timetable for that money to be repaid so it can be used to build these much-needed affordable homes.

Lib Dem Group Leader Cllr Fiona White reminded the Council that the Lib Dems had consistently opposed using housing money for the construction of the new entertainment venue. Cllr White says "It seems the construction of G Live has cost Guildford's council-tax payers not only £26 million in cash, but also many affordable homes for local people in housing need. There is Council-owned land available, such as Bright Hill car park, which was purchased using housing money and could be used to build many affordable homes. Yet this Council plans to build only 21 affordable homes at Bright Hill, along with 39 private market houses! We need that £10.4 million to be repaid and spent on building the affordable homes local people desperately need."

The Lib Dem proposal was defeated by the Conservative majority on the Borough Council, with one Conservative councillor commenting: "Spending all of the affordable housing money on entertainment has nothing to do with the lack of affordable housing in Guildford."

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr White says "Such an insensitive remark is beyond belief. When it comes to housing need, the Conservatives just don't get it."