During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday (2nd March) in the House of Commons, York Central MP, Rachael Maskell told the Prime Minister, David Cameron, about York’s urgent need for affordable social rented accommodation. Ms Maskell is concerned that as the York Central site looks towards redevelopment no consideration has been given to the needs of York families who cannot afford to get onto the housing ladder and struggle to afford the high rents that private landlords demand.
Speaking afterwards Ms Maskell said:
“A City is only as important as the people that live there and many of York’s people are being priced out of their City. We need to introduce a ‘York First’ principle so that houses are built for families and other people who are desperate to stay in their city. York Central provides us with a unique opportunity to do this. I do not understand how we can be looking at high value apartments when we have over 1600 families on our housing waiting list. This is public land it should be used for the public good.
“Every day York people are contacting me to tell me their heartbreaking stories about being priced out of their city, away from their families and the place that they grew up in and it is getting worse. We shouldn’t be looking at developing homes as assets we should be looking at developing homes for the hundreds of people who desperately need a roof over their head. A "York First" principle would put the needs of local resident's first. Homes for ordinary families living and working in the city, the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled and the homeless should be at the forefront of any plans. I don’t want to see a future York with only wealthier people affording to live here. This would have massive implications for our services and businesses and our ability to care for our vulnerable and sick people. Hospitals, care agencies, even our shops and restaurants would struggle to recruit. We need to build more affordable rented social housing and we need it now. I will work day and night to ensure that people of York are put first."
This is how Hansard recorded the exchange:
Rachael Maskell: When more than 1,600 families are on York’s housing waiting list; when care workers are forced to leave the city owing to the cost of renting, thereby delaying hospital discharges; when young families are placed in a single room in homeless hostels; and when supported housing schemes will have to close because of benefit changes, can the Prime Minister specifically state why up to 2,500 predominantly high-value homes are being planned for development on public land in York central, without a single home being built for social rent?
David Cameron: The decisions made in York about planning are for York City Council and the local plan. One of the things that we did in the previous Parliament, which was specifically designed to help York, was to alter the change of use provisions so that empty offices could be used to build flats and houses for local people, which is happening in York and will help to make sure that that city continues to thrive.
If your browser starts the video from the beginning, you can skip to 12:24:24 to hear Rachael's question.