Advancements in affordable housing

You may have seen in the media at the weekend that young adults are half as likely to own a home now as they were 20 years ago.

The claim was made by the Local Government Association in a report titled Understanding the Local Housing Market, which warns that many young people face renting into retirement as high rents hinder their ability to save.

It is a problem, which is why we work closely with housing associations and home builders to achieve a good mix of new housing in the city, including affordable homes to buy and rent.

In the past five years 5,328 new homes have been completed in Peterborough, with 1,074 of these affordable. Housing associations have provided an additional 150 homes for affordable ownership and rent, with a further 252 anticipated in the current financial year.

Only last week Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority approved funding of £1.2 million to acquire a 5.1 acre site in the north of the city for around 60 homes, with 30 per cent of these affordable.

The combined authority has also agreed funding of £735,000 to convert 21 new homes from open market sale to affordable rent at Belle Vue in Stanground. It’s the second site to be developed by Medesham Homes, the joint venture partnership between the council and Cross Keys Homes.

In May, the city council agreed to provide almost £6.2million to Medesham Homes, funded from Right to Buy receipts, to deliver 35 new affordable homes at Eye Green.

These projects are all really encouraging and are part of a long term plan to deliver homes across the city for everyone, whether it’s for the private sector, social rent, shared ownership or private rental.

The city council has also invested £10million for the purchase of homes off the open market for use as temporary accommodation for families who are homeless and awaiting permanent re-housing. So far we’ve purchased 51 properties and anticipate being able to buy a further eight.

Our city continues to grow faster than many other parts of the country with significant levels of growth and housing experienced in the past ten years. There doesn’t seem to be any sign of this slowing down, so it’s important that our efforts to create new housing don’t either.

Continuing the A47 dualling campaign

Last week I attended a reception at Parliament hosted by Brandon Lewis MP, along with the Mayor of Cambridgeshire James Palmer and businessman Rob Facer of Barnack Construction, to support the campaign to dual the A47 between Peterborough and Lowestoft.

This road joins the city with the east coast and is of national strategic importance, linking the Midlands with Eastern seaports and acts as an economic artery that runs through Peterborough.

At the meeting I made sure I represented Peterborough’s interests and explained that dualling the sections on our patch would bring huge benefits, reducing journey times and congestion and supporting our vision to see more local economic growth.

Future road proposals

In further good news, the combined authority has agreed to include two Peterborough road schemes on its list of priorities. This list is then shared with the government for a decision on funding.

The two projects are access to the new university site on The Embankment and linking the A47 better with Eastern Industry, taking the pressure off Eye and Parnwell.

Congratulations to Safer Off the Streets!

The city’s Safer Off the Streets partnership is celebrating this week after winning a regional award at the Britain and Ireland Awards, organised by Premier Christian Radio.

The partnership, which scooped the ‘Best Start-Up’ category, helps on average two rough sleepers to leave the streets a month since it began in October last year and has raised a whopping £8,000 for charity.

SOS receiving their award

I know many of you, myself included, have donated money either online or via the contactless card reader in St Peter’s Arcade, the money goes towards the running of the Garden House in the cathedral grounds.

The Garden House is run by the Light Project Peterborough – which also won an award – and does a fantastic job of creating a welcoming environment for rough sleepers thanks to its kind-hearted volunteers.

Another of the scheme’s partners, Care Zone, which operates out of Kingsgate Community Church, also won an award at the ceremony, which is a great achievement.

I’d like to say a massive well done to all those involved in the Safer Off the Streets partnership and to the Light Project for their efforts over the past nine months. Next stop is the national awards, let’s put Peterborough on the map for the right reasons!

Council newsletter

Finally, did you know the council now sends a e-newsletter to residents every week? It includes a link to my blog and other important news about the council. You can sign up at www.peterborough.gov.uk.

Council keen to keep links open

Listening to residents and acting on their concerns is a crucial part of the role for the city council’s cabinet, not least during the consultation period on our annual budget proposals.

Yes, we are having to make tough decisions on some services due to a severe cut in Government funding, but we will always try to do our best to meet the needs of the community when they approach us for support.

In the case of Bretton Water Park, I am delighted that a solution has been agreed to prevent us from having to close the facility.

Vivacity have offered to run this popular facility during the summer months and the organisation is ideally placed to do this as they also look after a number of other leisure and sports sites in the city.

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Election results have caused me a few headaches

When you’ve been a councillor for as long as I have, there are few things in the world of politics that shock you.

Even though I wasn’t surprised by last week’s election results, it’s fair to say it has caused me a few headaches. No doubt the same can be said for our Prime Minister!

Losing the East ward by-election means the Conservatives do not have a majority on the Council. We still have more seats than any other party, but collectively all those other members added together outnumber my group by one.

This means that there will have to be a special meeting of the council next Tuesday, called an extraordinary meeting because it’s outside of the usual schedule. This will be to discuss the number of councillors from each political party that sit on our committees, so that they are proportionate to the balance of councillors.

As I said in my speech to annual council last month, I want to do all of this working collaboratively across the council with all political groups. This is something I have done throughout my political career and something that comes naturally to me to get the best result for the city and our residents.

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Selective Licensing will help us tackle rogue landlords

Something that I believe will make a noticeable difference to our city over the coming years is the introduction of a selective licencing scheme.  As you know we went out to consultation on new proposals in October and it comes to an end today.

Designed to protect vulnerable tenants in our city and support good landlords, the scheme will require property landlords in a number of city wards to apply for a licence.

As part of the consultation we held a number of public events to hear people’s thoughts on the proposals and listen to any ideas they might have had. We also sent letters to around 40,000 residents, landlords and businesses. In total we’ve heard from well over 1,000 people.

The next stage is for one of our scrutiny committees to give their comments and recommendations on the changes we’ve made to our proposed scheme following the consultation.

This is an important initiative which will tackle poor living conditions, overcrowding and rogue landlords that operate in our city.  We have also been working with the many good landlords in the city to ensure they have the support they need to tackle anti-social tenants.

Under the scheme, landlords would have to buy a licence to rent out their property in certain areas of the city.  If the landlord has been professionally accredited the fee would be £50 for five years.  If they aren’t accredited the fee would rise to £600 for the same period, the equivalent of £10 per month.

The scheme will last for five years and a new one would have to be proposed if we needed to continue it beyond this.

In total, if approved over the coming months, the scheme will cover over 6,000 properties in 356 city streets across Peterborough. Or around 38 per cent of the city’s private rented stock.

All areas proposed had a certain level of private rented accommodation and met at least five or all six of the criteria set out within The Housing Act – that included high levels of migration, anti-social behaviour and poor property conditions.

I am determined to drive up living standards in areas of the city and, if approved, we will prosecute landlords who do not meet the standards set out in our selective licensing scheme.
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