Ensuring people can enjoy secure housing is the most effective way to deliver on the Government’s levelling up agenda.
Rising house prices and rising rents here in Cornwall makes this as critical an agenda item as ever. You can never predict what might happen in the next few years to trip us up but I want to assure everyone that I am confident that changes will be made that will ensure people have greater access to a home they can feel secure in whether it is purchased or rented.
The political will is there and the new Conservative administration at Cornwall Council and Cornwall’s six Conservative MPs are united in the need to dramatically accelerate measures to secure homes for permanent residency.
However, this requires a constructive conversation across Cornwall and on Scilly. It can take a long time to find consensus but consensus is needed if we are to deliver the homes needed, enhance the environment and strengthen the local economy.
As I see it (because of the critical nature of the housing situation at the moment in Cornwall) we need to build high quality homes and prioritise them as primary residence.
We also need to improve our existing housing stock and prioritise them as primary residence. We need to do this for a number of reasons: We need to prioritise new and existing homes as primary residence in order to protect our environment and manage the limited supply of appropriate land available for development. We need to prioritise homes for primary residence to encourage our workforce to stay in Cornwall and ensure homes are available for people to work in Cornwall.
This is especially critical for NHS staff and teachers who often take jobs in Cornwall and then find they can’t find a home to live in. Securing this shift will give our small schools, rural and coastal villages a fighting chance and secure community assets such as pubs and post office branches. The debate that needs to be had is how we do this? Should any move to using a home as a holiday let, second home or other purpose be subject to a Change of Use planning application?
This is an idea I favour as it would help the Council to monitor the supply of homes and strike the right balance to support a sustainable level of tourism. We need some level of control.
Through the planning process we already cap the number of homes available and with no control we just drive people who can’t afford homes out of the county. If we don’t cap the number of homes we destroy the very environment that makes Cornwall so precious and critical to nature. Another part of the debate is to identify what jobs we want to create. Building and improving homes requires skilled construction workers. These are skills we have been short of for a long time. Furthermore, construction jobs are relatively well-paid and largely secure so tick the levelling up agenda nicely. We also need a workforce to care for the countryside and produce our food on land and at sea.
We need engineers, healthcare staff, teachers and much more and all need housing that they can afford and feel secure in. The challenge is to give access to the right homes, in the right place for the people who need them at an affordable price. Not easy to resolve but this is the No 1 priority.