Is Northampton heading for an affordable housing crisis? Politicians raise fears over Right To Buy scheme

Councillor Rufia Ashraf says Northampton is on the brink of a housing crisis.
Councillor Rufia Ashraf says Northampton is on the brink of a housing crisis.

Opposition members on Northampton Borough Council fear the town is heading for an affordable housing crisis as the Government prepares to extend the Right To Buy scheme.

Figures released this week show that in Northampton there are currently 25 people sleeping rough, 38 households living in bed and breakfast accommodation and 112 council houses empty because they are awaiting extensive modernisation or development.

Northampton is also soon due to receive a Government set quota of asylum seekers as a result of the European Migrant Crisis and recent figures suggest extraordinary amounts of people are moving into Northamptonshire every month.

Among them, 900 school-age children are reported to be entering the county every 12 weeks.

MPs have now begun debating the Housing and Planning Bill, which will further extend the right-to-buy scheme - though there is no commitment in the Bill that affordable homes will be replaced like-for-like in the local area.

But currently, there is only one large-scale social housing development on the horizon for 100 homes at Dallington Grange.

At the full council meeting on Tuesday, Labour councillor Rufia Ashraf (Lab, St James) said the affordable private rented market is also littered with bad landlords, soaring rents, poor properties and overcrowding in Northampton.

On Tuesday, she called for the controlling Conservative group to plough resources into building more affordable as soon as possible with Right to Buy set to extend.

She said: “Recent welfare changes, such as the bedroom tax, mean some families on the lowest incomes may not be able to afford even social housing. “We have a housing crisis in this town.

“Soaring rents, poor conditions and rising homelessness are the end result.”

Since 2008, the number of new homes being started in Northampton has fallen to its lowest since 1924.

But of those sold through Right to Buy around 85 percent of those could be classed as family homes, prompting fears that families will struggle to get into social housing in the future.

“These issues should be high on the Conservative Administration’s agenda,” councillor Ashraf continued.

She said that overcrowding was also a big issue in social homes in particular, saying many families in the town are using their living room as a bedroom.

Council members were asked in Tuesday’s council meeting whether the authority could write to Parliament to express its fears about the Housing and Planning Bill.

Labour group leader, Councillor Danielle Stone, said on her fears for the extension of Right to Buy: “We cannot afford to have a situation any more where houses are being sold off and end up in the hands of rogue private landlords who will further exploit hard up people and make huge profits out of what used to be our housing stock.”

But the motion was defeated by the controlling Conservative group on the grounds it was a policy proposed by the national party.

Cabinet member for housing, Councillor Stephen Hibbert, said the Housing and Planning Bill was intended to help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder.

He said: “It will help to create one million new homeowners by 2020, it will speed up the planning process on brownfield sites.

“It is extending right to buy, which is already proving popular and 5,000 tenants have already registered their interests.

“We reject the criticism of the Housing and Planning Bill and we will be voting against this motion.”

* What are your thoughts? Do you think extending the Right to Buy scheme will deepen a housing crisis in Northampton? Or provide social housing tenants the leg up they need to get on the housing ladder? Email editor@northantsnews.co.uk