LibLink: Cllr Jayne McCoy: Council intervention drives housing market

Cllr Jayne McCoy chairs the London Borough of Sutton’s Housing, Economy and Business Committee. She has written for the Local Government Association’s First magazine about how Sutton Council have set up a development company to build the right sorts of houses at the prices key workers can afford:

In Sutton we have seen numerous private developments of one bedroom flats, however what we need are two and three bedroom family homes. We also see both the private for sale and private rented sector out of the price range of most of our residents.

In response we have sought to take control and lead the delivery of housing ourselves by setting up a council-owned development company. This will allow us to take advantage of preferential borrowing rates to invest in the housing market across all tenures.

The development company gives the council the flexibility to build homes for private ownership, private rent or to build council houses in the traditional sense. The company will also seek to unlock sites where development has stalled.

We will need to work with private partners and having a stake will enable us to have more say over design and standards. For our partners our investment will de-risk projects and enable them to be more flexible about affordable housing and densities.

We will also be able to ensure that private rents on new properties we build are affordable, and that houses are sold at prices key workers and middle-income families can afford. We can also stipulate that these new properties are offered to Sutton residents first as a priority. Local developers and housing associations have seen the potential of working with a council-owned development company and we have had some very interesting propositions. The development company is also a key part of our bid for the London Mayor’s Housing Zones programme.

It’s a good example of how the Liberal Democrats find innovative ways to meet the needs of their communities.

You can read the whole article here. 


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  • Ah, but we can’t do this. It’s “big state” and as a party we’re supposed to be “small state”, aren’t we?

    I’m being sarcastic here. I am a great fan of Joseph Chamberlain in his role as Mayor of Birmingham, who is recorded as having left the city: ‘parked, paved, assized, marketed, gas & watered and improved’.

    As long as the right precautions are in place to avoid losses in the event of a property market downturn, this is exactly the kind of thing we should be doing: tackling the every day problems of citizens locally and nationally with ingenious and principled solutions.

  • John Tilley 11th Aug '15 - 4:34pm

    Like RC I am a fan of what Chamberlain did at local level (less so of his later views on national and international levels).
    I am also a fan of Sutton Borough Liberal Democrat councillors, unique in London in surviving the Clegg years as a majority group.
    This article is interesting but would be improved with a bit more information, background and examples of how this is working in practice.

    Housing is hugely important as a political priority throughout London.
    If you are not from a wealthy family, or you are not a lottery winner or you are not in a job that pays more than £50,000 a year, this might be the issue that gets you voting Liberal Democrat.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Aug '15 - 6:12pm

    RC “Ah, but we can’t do this. It’s “big state” and as a party we’re supposed to be “small state”, aren’t we? ” No.

    Preamble to our Constitution
    The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Aug '15 - 6:20pm

    T H E C O N S T I T U T I O N S O F T H E L I B E R AL D E M O C R ATS
    The Constitution of the Federal Party As amended, Federal Conference, Brighton , September 2012

    ? Any chance of an update ? Where are we on OMOV? Would it need a conference motion to amend the Preamble to say European Union instead of European Community?

  • David Evershed 11th Aug '15 - 7:07pm

    What housing priority will Sutton give to:

    a) asylum seekers?

    b) refugees?

    c) economic migrants?

  • David Evershed 11th Aug '15 - 7:11pm

    Richard Underhill at 6.12pm

    The Preamble to the constitution uses the words “……. balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community”.

    There is a balance to be found between subsidising the housing for one group of people that has to be paid for by another group of people.

    Finding this balance can be difficult when the income of those paying is no greater than those being subsidised.

  • Interesting. We are currently in the middle of an inquiry into our housing strategy across three boroughs, as part of our local plan. In Gloucester all three parties supported the numbers for more housing and the sites, most outside the City. In Tewkesbury the Conservative majority supported it, but the Lib Dems vehemently opposed. In Lib Dem Cheltenham the Tories strongly oppose the strategy and housing sites. Frankly local interests and political opportunism have overcome any principles. That seems to apply sadly to all parties.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Aug '15 - 12:39pm

    David Evershed 11th Aug ’15 – 7:11pm Yes, i know. This is why the European Convention on Human Rights has absolute, limited and qualified rights. In the USA there are too many absolute rights which can clash, leading to physical or legal fights. Where did i disagree with you please?

  • David Pollard 13th Aug '15 - 6:03pm

    I do wonder why Councils have not taken this kind of action before now, but well done for doing it. With the Government forcing housing associations to sell to their tenants, the amount of social housing is going to reduce further. For many years Councils have had the power of ‘Well being’ – to look after the social, economic and environmental well being of their residents. This initiative fits into the Well being powers perfectly.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '15 - 8:28pm

    For asylum seekers the pressure is on councils nearest to Dover and Heathrow.
    Liverpool and Glasgow volunteered empty blocks of council flats, the local depopulation having been caused mainly by unemployment.
    Government owned accommodation was added, for instance on the former RAF base at Oakington, near Cambridge.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Aug '15 - 8:37pm

    David Evershed 11th Aug ’15 – 7:07pm “What housing priority will Sutton give to: a) asylum seekers? b) refugees?
    c) economic migrants?”
    Recognised refugees have rights in the supplement to the 1951 Convention. Economic migrants would be wise to obtain visas and confirmation from employers before seeking accommodation in the market place.

  • Stephen Hesketh 17th Aug '15 - 11:23am

    Simon Shaw17th Aug ’15 – 10:58am

    Hi Simon
    I am probably not keeping up but it is not immediately clear what you would have done/supported/said. 🙂

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