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Housing and Homes

Part of Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:24 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 6:24 pm, 15th May 2018

I will focus on York’s local plan during the short time I have to speak. We do not yet have a local plan, but it will be debated at full council on Thursday.

Although the Government’s planning and housing policies are clearly not delivering what is needed in our communities, I believe that City of York Council should at least try to follow what the Government have set out, rather than detracting from the figures with smoke and mirrors. Allow me to focus on those figures. The planning process requires 1,070 homes to be built, yet the council’s submission will only include plans for 867 homes. In fact, the NPPF for 2018 demands 1,135 homes, so York is 268 homes short. The former Secretary of State wrote to the council’s leadership about this. However, the council is determined to submit its plan with inadequate provision. This will clearly not address the real housing crisis in York, which has already been eloquently described by my hon. Friend Anneliese Dodds. York is a mini Oxford in so many respects, and it is absolutely essential that our city has the housing that it needs.

I want to the Minister to focus on these points. Over the past five years, 1,458 student housing units and 2,737 flats and town houses—mainly exclusive, luxury apartments—have been built in York, only 5% of which are affordable according to the Government’s own definition. They are therefore completely inaccessible to my constituents. Seven residential care homes have also closed, with only 27 replacement units, in a city with an ageing demographic. Since I have been elected to this place over the past three years, zero social housing has been commissioned in the city, even though we have a housing crisis and just 73 houses were sold under right to buy in the last year.

York is not an affordable city by any stretch of the imagination, and we are seeing an escalation of the crisis. That is why I need the Minister to focus on the local plan, which will be landing on his desk any day now. He also needs to look at the wider context of the local plan, including transport. Our city is suffocating under the air pollution caused by gridlock, yet high-density housing is being built in the heart of the city. Yes, we want to see the development of brownfield sites, but it will just add to the traffic crisis. The local plan that will soon be submitted relies on old data, not the most recent data, so it will not set out the real scale of the crisis.

When the Minister receives the local plan, which will go to the inspectors, will he ensure that all people in the local community are involved in the next phase? It is clear that the Government will have to intervene in the submission. It is therefore really important to listen to the expertise that has built up regarding what is actually needed for our city for the sake of the local economy and for our public services, which are unable to recruit the vital staff that they need. Of course, we also need to ensure that we have a transport system that is built for the future.

As we all know, York is an amazing city, but there are many people in crisis. The housing crisis means that there has been a sharp rise in homelessness in the city, and there are people with complex housing needs. This situation needs to be addressed. I trust that the Minister will say in his response that he will give the issue his attention from today.