Lib Dems plan to build 3,000 new council houses in Guildford following the scrapping of cap on council borrowing in last week’s budget

November 9, 2018 1:59 PM

Guildford Council Housing Graphic

Guildford Liberal Democrats welcome the confirmation in this week's budget that the cap on the ability of councils to borrow to build new council houses is being scrapped. The Lib Dems are now calling for Guildford Borough Council to adopt an 'ambitious but achievable' target to build 3,000 new council houses in the borough over the next decade.

Guildford Liberal Democrats housing spokesperson, Cllr Angela Goodwin, said:

"When the government first discussed scrapping the cap on council borrowing, we Liberal Democrats said that if it happened we should build thousands of new council houses in Guildford borough.

"With the Chancellor confirming in the budget that the cap is to go, we're now going further and saying that Guildford Borough Council should use these powers to build 3,000 new council and social houses over the next 10 years - this target is ambitious but achievable.

"There are big challenges to be overcome to reach this target - such as land supply, the problems caused by Right To Buy, and access to building materials/labour - but the Lib Dems believe these must be overcome. The new council houses will be available at genuinely affordable rents and they will give the council a greater long-term income, making our plan a vital investment in the future.

"In the even longer term we want to almost double the amount of council and social housing in Guildford borough to 20% of the housing stock by 2034 (the end of the local plan period). Not only will this help tackle the housing crisis by reducing pressure on the private rental sector, it will also give us an opportunity to start a programme of rejuvenating and renewing the existing social housing stock since we will have new houses to temporarily move people into whilst refurbishments take place.

"The new council houses we want to build should be energy efficient, fully disabled accessible and built to create pleasant neighbourhoods with access to greenspace. We also want to explore the potential for module and prefabricated houses to speed up the building process and reduce costs.

"The obvious question is where the new council and social houses will be built and we accept that we will have to work within the constraints of the Local Plan. However, we believe that the space for new council houses can be found without sacrificing additional greenbelt. For instance, we want the council to work with the developers to build new council houses on large private developments as part of the affordable housing percentage. We'd also like to see the council purchase suitable sites, such as existing urban brownfield sites, to build on itself, using compulsory purchase powers if necessary.

"Above all, our plans mean that, at the ballot box in May next year, residents have the option to vote for a party that will build new council houses we need to tackle the housing and renting crisis, whilst protecting the character of our town and villages and without requiring any further building on the greenbelt."

When Guildford Liberal Democrats called last month for 'thousands' of new council houses to be built, a Lib Dem spokesperson was interviewed on BBC Surrey about the plans and answered questions about the practicalities: