The last week or so has, unusually for me, been all about housing – or more precisely the shortage of homes across our city at any level of affordability, and what we might be able to do about that.
It isn’t unusual for the Labour group as a whole to be focusing on housing issues, of course – since we have an ever-increasing crisis in every part of the city that affects pretty much every type of property and all of our residents in one way or another, whichever income bracket they fall into.
But, with the exception of individual housing issues that come up at ward level, I am not very involved in the bigger picture, since I am not on the Housing Committee.
Residents often think we have more power to control private development in the city than we actually do, whereas in practice the rules are set at a national level, leaving councils with little say.
A couple of months ago though, the Labour group brought a “notice of motion” to full council, proposing to insert a “principal residence” clause into local planning policy.
The clause would say that, in new developments at least, permission will only be granted if the homes are to be sold or rented to people who are actually going to live in them as their main home, rather than using them as holiday homes or party lets or keeping empty as investment property.
The latest stage was for a report to come to one of the committees that I do sit on – the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee – as it covers planning policy.
Labour amended the report to strengthen it – and I made some remarks about how insane both rental and purchase property prices have become.
The city does not have the wages to match and locals are being priced out in increasing numbers and this is decimating some communities.
I wasn’t surprised to be quoted in the local press, since councillors often are about all sorts of things.
But I was very shocked to start receiving multiple emails and calls from national radio stations and TV news programmes, asking me to appear, and to see that newspapers including The Times, Daily Mail and Express had picked up on it and quoted my remarks.
The “principal residence policy” is very much the brainchild of Labour’s housing lead, Gill Williams, and a big credit should also go to the community union Acorn.
So I passed on all the requests to her – and as there are a few still to come, look out for Gill on a TV screen near you soon!
Councillor Amanda Evans is the deputy leader of the Labour opposition on Brighton and Hove City Council.
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