We hear often about how we’re living through a “housing crisis”. It has become harder and harder for young people to secure a foothold on the property ladder and in certain areas there often hasn’t been enough affordable housing to go around. The Government have taken some positive actions to address this over recent years but it’s clear to me that a lot more needs to be done.
We know in Ipswich the Borough Council owns a significant amount of council housing. This council housing stock plays a crucial role in providing homes for local people across the Town, many of whom are on low incomes or may be unemployed. It’s vital that there is enough housing of this tenure type to house some of the most vulnerable people in our community. I am fully supportive of the need for there to be more affordable housing for this reason.
However, when it comes to the allocation of council homes in Ipswich, my strong belief is that it should only be local people with a strong connection with the Borough who should be eligible for council housing. In other words, “local homes for local people”. [MG1] A recent Freedom of Information request has shown that this is not currently the case. Ipswich Borough Council do not operate a local residency requirement to join their housing register. Meaning that people with no connection to Ipswich are able to join the Ipswich Borough Council Housing Register to secure council housing. I can’t support this. I’m very glad that Ipswich Conservatives have made clear in their local election manifesto that they would introduce a local residency requirement for council housing and housing association homes.
There are examples across the country of councils that have local residency requirements and it works very well. For example, the London Borough of Havering has a requirement that you have to live in the Borough for over six years before you’re able to qualify to join the local housing register. To me this sounds like a very sensible policy and it’s one that enjoys a significant amount of support locally. Why doesn’t Ipswich Borough Council adopt such a policy? It’s Ipswich council tax payers who pay for the council housing so surely this should be a service which puts them first.
As it stands, if the housing needs of someone with no connection to Ipswich are the same as someone with a local connection, then the person with the local connection will be given priority. This is absolutely right. However, if the housing needs of the person from outside the area and with no connection to Ipswich are higher than someone with a strong local connection, then the person with no local connection will be given priority. In other words, someone without a connection to Ipswich will have higher priority than Ipswich residents if their housing needs are deemed to be greater.
A question has been asked about the proportion of council homes that have been awarded to people with no connection to Ipswich but the Borough Council have not been able to provide this information. The Borough Council state that this information is not collected. I wish it was. It would be very interested to see what percentage of council housing is awarded to people with no connection to Ipswich every year.
So yes, Council housing plays an extremely important role and we clearly need more affordable housing both to rent and to buy. However, when it comes to Ipswich Borough Council-owned housing, let’s make sure it’s “local homes for local people.” The Ipswich Conservatives local election manifesto makes precisely this commitment.
As published in the Ipswich Flyer May Addition.