HOUSING: The problems with scheme

Unfortunately, Dave Herne still has the facts wrong, (Morpeth Herald, December 17).

The application to which he refers was not about a reduction in affordable homes to be provided on the Bellway site in Loansdean. The reduction in affordable homes happened months ago.

Mr Herne went on to wonder if I support two schemes introduced by David Cameron’s Conservative Government.

The first phase of Help to Buy was actually introduced by the Coalition Government in England in April 2013.

It was, wisely, not made available for the purchase of second homes or buy-to-let, and the system was designed to discourage reckless lending.

However, the scheme was not as successful as anticipated, possibly because of the high cost of the homes to be purchased.

The second scheme is a re-introduction of the Right to Buy scheme introduced by Prime Minister Thatcher.

I did not support this controversial scheme then and, since it is equally as likely to be controversial now, I still do not support it.

In fact both the Welsh and Scottish governments have rejected the scheme as they wish to preserve publicly-owned housing stock.

Thatcher’s original scheme allowed council homes to be bought at discounted prices by their tenants, but did not allow councils to re-invest the money from the sales into building new affordable homes.

This is the biggest single reason for the decimation of the publicly-owned housing stock that has now caught up with us.

The new scheme extends Right to Buy to tenants of housing associations.

Anyone who has lived in a public sector home for three years or more is eligible to apply, and discounts can be up to 70 per cent.

Development is likely to be limited if new-build homes have to be sold off at a discount within a short time.

Whilst the Government says that it will make up the discount, the National Housing Federation has calculated that Right to Buy for housing association tenants could cost £11.2billion.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said it would potentially cost “billions of pounds” over the next Parliament, and it “would worsen the UK’s underlying public finance position”.

The other main flaw, however, is that after ten years the new owners could sell the property at full market value — that is with no discount.

In my view, affordable housing should remain so in perpetuity if we are to preserve the affordable stock for the future.

Lessons have not been learned and that is not good governance.

Perhaps the Government should reconsider this scheme and some of its other proposals.

In my personal view, the first to go would be the outrageously expensive HS2 railway.

The £42.6billion cost, that is £78.5million per kilometre, is apparently ten times the comparable cost of high-speed rail in Europe.

We could upgrade our existing railway lines and spend the rest of that money creating quality flood defences to prevent people across the country having to go through the recent traumatic damage to their homes and livelihoods yet again.

Climate change is speeding up and most flood defences were not designed for the more significant events now taking place and increasing in frequency.

Yes, this Government has just signed a Climate Change Agreement. Very laudable.

However, it has also decreased subsidies for solar power and approved widespread fracking, which will increase our usage of fossil fuels.

I am not sure if this is a lack of joined-up thinking or simply a lack of genuine acceptance of the realities of climate change. This is again poor governance and an example of double standards.

My other suggestion is to stop bombing Syria.

Aggression breads aggression and our actions in the past have just exacerbated hatred of us, terrorism and uncertainty in the world.

Bombing has an inevitable indiscriminate element, killing and maiming innocent people, with many being unable to earn a decent living because of their injuries.

Safe havens, protected by international forces, are an essential part of any plan for the area.

Diplomacy must be pursued strenuously so that people can get back to rebuilding their lives, homes, cities and nation.

May 2016 be a year of peace, harmony, mutual understanding and acceptance of difference.

Joan Tebbutt,