Report casts light on housing crisis

New housing targets across Tonbridge & Malling are 'undeliverable'

THE number of affordable houses being built in Tunbridge Wells borough is ‘significantly less’ than what is required, the council has admitted.

Since 2012 only 580 affordable homes have been provided, despite the council’s own targets stipulating the need for 341 such developments to be delivered each year. A total of 1,705 were required.

The large shortfall was revealed in a draft of the new Joint Housing and Homelessness Strategy 2016/21 which lays out plans to tackle the housing shortage.

Opposition parties have branded the report a ‘stark catalogue of failure’ and accused the ruling Conservative party of ‘ignoring’ the issue.

The draft document cites several ‘challenges’ to delivering more affordable housing in the area and notes a ‘substantial number of households’ are unable to access home ownership or the private sector rental market.

Policies such as the Right to Buy to housing association properties have exacerbated the shortage of supply, the document states.

A total of 60 recommendations on how to tackle the housing shortage are contained within the draft.

The options include; building more homes through local authority run housing companies, reviewing how developer contributions – known as section 106 payments – are spent and ‘challenging’ developers to deliver their commitments.

Other initiatives could include plugging the reduction in government funding for housing by setting up partnerships with the private sector, attracting institutional investment and courting private equity.

Converting ‘underused’ garage sites and vacant council property are other ideas mentioned.

However, despite the initiatives being put forward, Tunbridge Wells Labour Party spokesman Martin Betts said the Joint Housing and Homelessness Strategy lays bare the scale of the housing crisis, adding: “It is a stark catalogue of the failure of government and local authorities to deal with it.

“Tunbridge Wells Borough Council should be offering real leadership, taking action and devoting its energy to tackling this bread and butter issue rather than making building a new multi-million pound civic complex its number one priority.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Peter Lidstone said the lack of affordable housing hits younger people and those trying to get on the property ladder hardest, adding: “The Lib Dems are astonished that the Tory led council has ignored lower income families in this way.”

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has not responded to a request for comment.

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