The Housing and Planning Bill was read in the Commons on 12th January and Nicola took this opportunity to again speak up for our local area and put pressure on the Government to recognise Oxford’s exceptional circumstances.
Oxford now has the highest house prices in England when prices are set against local incomes. Median full-time earnings in Oxford are now £26,500; median house prices are £427,210. This means that house prices are 16 times the earnings of the average worker. We desperately need an increased supply of housing, yet our local authorities face a number of challenges as the city has a relatively low density and development is highly restricted due to the amount of protected and listed buildings. The City Council also has 400 hectares of Green Belt land within its local authority. Nicola has been speaking with Leaders at Oxford City Council to encourage them to bring forward a Local Plan which will ensure further development as soon as possible.
The Housing Bill brings forward a number of welcome measures-more stringent measures to tackle rogue landlords; measures to increase the pace of housebuilding through planning permission in principle and the brownfield register; the Starter Homes scheme to build homes specifically for first-time buyers at a price they can afford; and a requirement to bring forward local plans to ensure local people have a greater say on where development takes place in their area.
However, with the exceptional circumstances Oxford is up against- Oxford City Council delivered zero affordable homes in 2013-14 and only 20 in 2014-14, when we require 1,400 homes to be provided each year until 2031, Nicola believes the Bill should go further. She spoke out in order to ask the Housing Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, to extend the scheme whereby Greater London authorities are required to build two affordable homes to replace each high-value council house sold in London, to Oxford. This is possible in London largely because house prices are so high that huge amounts of money are generated fro sales, and so Nicola has argued strongly that it would also be possible in Oxford.
Nicola says I welcome many measures in this Bill. It will help increase house building across the country and help people get on to the housing ladder, but it does not go far enough to helping high cost housing areas like Oxford. Oxford City Council is ranked fourth worst in the country for delivering housing, and this must change. Residents are being priced out of the city and nearby towns and villages altogether, and our hospitals are spending hundreds of thousands on agency staff because skilled workers cannot afford to live here.
I will keep up the pressure on the Government, working with colleagues who represent high cost areas across the House, and will also keep up the dialogue with the City Council.