Tuesday, 3 July 2012

West Briton Column 28th June

It won't surprise readers that each week hard working local families and young people come to talk to me about the problems they are facing in trying to find decent accommodation to buy or rent.

The statistics of demand for housing increasing and lack of affordable supply are all too familiar. This is a particularly acute problem in this the least affordable part of Cornwall, our part of Cornwall, where the growth in employment has been the greatest in the past years, all too often housing supply has not kept up with the new jobs being created.

By the time people come to talk to me they are feeling pretty hopeless, however there is more help for people to put a roof over their heads than they are often aware of. I have produced a list of Government schemes designed to help people to buy their home and am pleased that this has already helped a number of constituents. Please contact my office if you would like this information.

In such beautiful and environmentally sensitive environments as the ones in which we live, deciding where to build new homes is bound to be challenging. I believe that the new Neighbourhood Planning process which involves all those who want to be involved in the shaping of the place where they live and often work too is a big step forward.

I have also been working hard to persuade the Government to make it easier to bring existing properties back into residential use. Ministers have listened and some common sense changes have been made. In future empty buildings will be taxed differently and Cornwall Council will have more money to bring empty buildings back into use.

Cornwall Council will also be able to decide on council tax breaks for empty homes and levy a premium payment if homes are left empty for two years. There of course needs to be intelligent application of this payment to protect for example those going into care or whose home has been flooded and needs a lot of repairs. For farming families and others with space around their property, there will be new opportunities to create an annex for an older or younger family members to live in. 

Cornwall Council could also stop the second home Council tax discount of 10 percent which will generate over 2 million pounds per year. This money, along with the New Homes Bonus could be spent on creating more genuinely affordable homes to rent.

I will also be working alongside my colleague Richard Harrington MP on his Private Members Bill, which aims to tackle the dreadful problem of social housing fraud. It has been estimated that between 50,000 and 200,000 social homes are being being illegally sublet to private tenants, whilst thousands of families languish on social housing lists.  

These recent measures along with a wide range of others add up to make a concerted effort to enable more hard working families, young and older people get the homes they need.

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