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Britain needs homes, and councils must be allowed to be part of the solution

It was great to visit the building site for our latest council house development on Cauldwell Hall Road to see how work is progressing, writes Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.

There will be seventeen new houses built here and the plan is for the first tenants to move into their homes by Christmas 2019.

It is particularly pleasing that the work is being carried out by local firm Mixbrow Construction.

These homes are on top of the 150 new council houses we have already constructed since the rules that stopped councils building houses were relaxed. We currently have firm plans for around another 200 homes.

If, as a nation, we are going to end the current housing crisis – and it is a crisis – we need to be building housing of all types: to buy, to rent privately and to rent from councils and housing associations.

Unfortunately, for much of the lifetime of this government, ministers have gone out of their way to make it harder for councils to build houses.

The culmination of this attitude was probably when the Government overturned the planning permission Ipswich Borough Council had gained for housing on Ravenswood because there was “too much” affordable housing in the scheme. In other words, because the houses weren’t expensive enough!

Thankfully this attitude seems to be on its way out. The Government has announced that it intends to end the restriction on councils borrowing against the value of their housing stock.

Currently the Government restricts access to finance for housebuilding by putting an artificial borrowing cap on councils. For Ipswich this is the equivalent of a mortgage of around £20,000 per property. Clearly, our houses are worth a lot more than that.

This one change has the potential to open up large amounts of finance for councils all over the country to build more affordable homes for people on our waiting lists.

The only snag is the Government hasn’t said when this restriction is going to be lifted, and whether there will be any strings attached.

The borrowing cap should be lifted now, with no strings.

We are ready, willing and able to build much more affordable housing. We just need the Government to take the brakes off.

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