Article - Defra & Housing

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D E F R A

I am proud to be representing Labour as the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and will work tirelessly to ensure I get the best for York and the country moving forward. Like many Government departments DEFRA has seen huge cuts to its budget with planned cuts that will total a 57% reduction in real terms from 2010.

Since in post, I have been challenging the Government’s austerity agenda in this department and have been focusing my work to improve air quality and reduce traffic pollution. Above all I have been unveiling how DEFRA were totally unprepared for a vote to leave the EU in the Referendum. I have also been carrying on with my work to bring greater co-ordination following the floods.

H O U S I N G

York’s housing crisis is deepening, and yet we see a Government in denial with the local Council complicit, developing high value housing, whilst ignoring the local community and the urgent requirement for much needed social housing. We have one of the highest levels of privately rented accommodation in the country, at 26%, and day by day, family housing is being bought up for HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).

In our city, homelessness has gone up four fold in the last year as budgets have been slashed by as much as 40% to organisations that provide support; over 1,600 are on the housing waiting list; people in work and not in work are unable to keep up with private rental payments which are soaring; and many live in homes which are waiting for routine repairs, with problems such as damp or they are overcrowded.

The current Government have replaced planning obligations to provide social housing with the building of ‘affordable’ homes to buy. The only problem is that the Tory Government’s definition is very different from ours. An ‘affordable’ home outside London is £250,000. With York continuing to have wages below the national average and Yorkshire average, being able to find somewhere to live is becoming more difficult and many people are priced out of the city. The Council are not addressing this, and their proposals for York Central and the Local Plan do not respond to the needs of local people or put York first.

It is simply not good enough. Labour will not stand by while our city is being developed without priority for people to have an affordable roof over their heads. Labour cares passionately about our local communities. We are spending our time day by day listening to local people about their own housing needs. Whether their children can’t leave home as they can’t afford to live anywhere, whether local employees are being forced to live outside of the city to get on the property ladder or whether couples are delaying having a family because they are spending month after month on the housing waiting list or cannot save the ever increasing deposit required to buy their own home. The York housing crisis is touching most families one way or another and I will not stand by on the side-lines. I will continue to speak up on behalf of all my constituents and ensure I get the best for York.

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