Building more affordable homes to rent and buy, is one of the greatest priorities both for our community and the country as a whole. Over the last few years, whilst unemployment has fallen significantly, and the economy has continued to grow, house prices have consistently risen faster than prices and wages, making it harder and harder for people to afford a home of their own. The main reason for this is a lack of supply. We are not building enough homes to meet the demand, and so the prices continue to go up. This doesn’t only affect the affordability of homes to buy, but also of those to rent. Again, the lack of availability of homes to rent, means that those unable to rent through the council or a housing association, face higher and higher costs to do so.
One of the reasons that I have consistently supported the proposals to create a new garden town at Otterpool, is because of the need for us to build more affordable homes to rent and buy. I know that this will be an important part of the overall scheme, and Shepway Council is also working closely with the government’s Homes and Communities Agency to deliver this. I was pleased that in his speech to the Conservative Party conference last week, the Communities Secretary announced a further grant of £155,000 from the government to Shepway, to help with the master planning for Otterpool. This is in addition to the £345,000 that had already been given by the government. It was also good news that the Prime Minister announced in her party conference speech that there would an additional £2billion made available by the government to support the building of new affordable homes, including new council houses to rent. This is again another important step in the right direction. I also believe there is more we could do to look at how government owned land could be made available for housing. The announcement last week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, that the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme will continue is also to be welcomed. This £10billion has supported many local families in raising the deposit they need to buy their first home, and there are housing schemes in our area that advertise they are part of the government’s ‘Help to Buy’ programme. We should look as well at the lending criteria applied by banks to people with a good credit history looking to take their first mortgage. It can’t be right that banks are happy for people to pay more in rent each month, than they would need to for the mortgage repayments for an equivalent property.
On Friday, I was delighted to welcome Google’s Digital Garage team to the Quarterhouse in Folkestone, where they ran training courses for local businesses throughout the day. The Google team gave talks, and arranged for one to one meetings for people interested in finding out more about how they maximise the power of technology, to grow their business. In the evening that day, I was pleased once again to join the members of the Folkestone Arts Society for their autumn show at The Grand.