According to figures from the Halifax, published in yesterday’s Guardian, Crawley saw the fourth fastest increase in house prices in 2018 compared to the whole of the UK. While this may in the short-term be good news for local property owners, Crawley already has one of the worst ratios of average property prices to median wages and these latest figures indicate that the problem is getting worse.
As a council, we’ve worked hard to build new affordable housing (and I do mean affordable, not the Tories’ £450,000 Starter Homes) and by next May we’re on course to have delivered 103% of the target we set ourselves when Labour regained control four years ago. However, as we know that there is only enough land in the town to meet half of our locally generated need, this isn’t a problem the council can solve without major changes to national housing policy.
Following years of work alongside other Labour Group Leaders, we successfully persuaded the party to include a ‘Right to Grow’ in its 2015 Manifesto which would have given built-up communities like Crawley control over more land to ensure local housing needs were met. It was an important development and one I hope the next Labour Government will deliver. Even so, it still won’t be enough.
The reality is that the UK gave up on any serious house-building forty years ago and over that time longer lifespans and the demographic shift to smaller household sizes has resulted in an increasing need for homes. Added to this picture is a geographical imbalance of the UK’s economy, meaning that many of those of working age move into London and the South East as a means of seeking employment and the local pressures are more than what councils alone can resolve.
Addressing the housing problems in our area will require national efforts to both regenerate depressed regional economies and catching-up on four decades of house-building decline by building far more units than people have even begun to discuss. It isn’t impossible, Labour managed it in the forties and the goal of kicking off a new generation of ecologically-friendly New Towns, built for the economic and social challenges of the Twenty-First Century, is something which I for one am totally committed to.