Welcome to my latest column for The Coleshill Post. It’s hard to believe that this is my 54th column for this paper. It’s an amazing story -; a paper born out of a desire to provide hyper local news, will next year celebrate its 5th Birthday! I’ve no doubt, there have been difficult times during those 5 years and there will be no doubt be, difficult times to come but this paper has provide our community with something really important -; a platform for local news and debate.
I want to use this month’s column to discuss housing. It’s a big issue in the town, as we balance protecting the green belt alongside trying to deliver affordable housing for local people.
The word ‘affordable’ is often misused as we find so called ‘affordable’ homes are not affordable to ordinary working people. Developers too often get away with not delivering the truly affordable homes that our community needs and at the moment, Councils are struggling to build homes because of austerity and Government borrowing rules. It’s the worst of both worlds. Limited new social housing at affordable rent and limited affordable homes on the open market.
This lack of new properties to the market also pushes up the prices of existing properties. Good news for home owners but part of an unbreakable blockade to the housing market for first and even second time buyers.
The answer is not a simple one. As a town we’ve voted through the neighbourhood plan to protect our green belt. I support this. So we therefore have to look at sites within the town that could be developed. In Coleshill we have a couple of sites in the emerging Local Plan that the Borough Council thinks would be suitable for housing. The allotments on Stonebridge Road and the Blytheways site on Blythe Road and Church Hill. Apart from these two sites, no other major development is planned for our town in the next 15 years. So we can expect a maximum of 60-70 new homes plus maybe a few individual new dwellings on private land. Is that enough to enable first and second time buyers to live in their own town? It’s important we also recognise that Government schemes that are supposed to help kick start the housing market such as ‘Help to Buy’ are only available on new build properties from certain registered developers.
I’m interested in hearing from you, local people. It is vital we hear from you because some of you will have personal or family interest in housing but others will have children, grandchildren and other family members struggling to find somewhere to live locally. Some of you will be the very people at the heart of the housing crisis.
How do we break the mould and be a town that enables people to rent and buy here? Moving away is almost never the answer. Breaking family ties, support and community links is never something that should be forced upon people through a broken housing market.
I know as a Councillor that the number one issue that is raised with me is housing. I too often have to try and help people with housing issues, whether it be a landlord increasing rent, someone on the housing waiting list without any hope of finding a property or someone seeking to buy their first home but no possibility of doing so in our town. Almost always, I am not able to help in the way I would like.
So please, let me have your views on this housing crisis. Do you have personal experience of a housing issue? Do you think you have a solution or ideas to fix this problem? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And finally on the topic of housing, I wanted to let you know that I am soon moving out of Coleshill to somewhere else in North Warwickshire. This means that I’ve stepped down as Deputy Mayor, in order for someone new to settle in to the role prior to the next Mayor making meeting in May 2018. I will however remain as a Town and Borough Councillor and will see out my term of office which ends in May 2019. I will continue to be available to contact, hold monthly surgeries in the town and play an active role in the future of Coleshil