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We need to build more affordable homes

PUBLISHED: 13:14 03 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:45 03 March 2019

Work begins at the former Took's Bakery site in Ipswich where 60 new homes and a GP 'super-surgery' are being built. PIcture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

Work begins at the former Took's Bakery site in Ipswich where 60 new homes and a GP 'super-surgery' are being built. PIcture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

It may seem that everything has ground to a halt because of Brexit but councils are carrying on with the day job.

The biggest job Ipswich Borough Council has is to ensure that there are enough decent and affordable homes available.

Our council house-building programme is an important element of this.

Council houses are not only good for the tenants who live in them - they save the government money too.

The Local Government Association has shown that, if councils had built 100,000 new council houses a year for the last 20 years (the current figure is around 6,000 a year), it would have allowed every person on housing benefit in the private sector to move to a council house.

This would have saved the government around £7billion in housing benefit payments, which instead has gone in payments to subsidise private landlords.

Work is progressing well on our latest 17 new council houses at Cauldwell Hall Road. We are looking at plans to build further houses on a number of small, unused plots of land in the council’s ownership.

Building larger council house schemes has proved tricky. When Ben Gummer was Ipswich’s MP, he got the Conservative government to put a stop to 94 council houses on Ravenswood because he believed there was “too much” affordable housing.

This means that, on any large council scheme, we now have to build a proportion of more expensive “market price” housing.

This is as crazy as it sounds, not least because it will almost certainly end up costing the government more in housing benefit payments.

However, that is the current system we have to work in and we have started our first scheme of this sort at the former Tooks bakery site. This will provide 41 new council houses and 19 market rent houses that will be managed by our new housing company Handford Homes.

I was pleased that local firm Gipping Construction won the contract to build these houses.

Every pound invested in new housing generates a £2.84 return through works contracts and people buying fixtures and fittings for their new home. It’s good to see as much of this as possible stay in the local economy.

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