By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
The growing shortage of affordable homes for first-time buyers and household earners in Kent will be tackled by a cross-party group at Kent County Council.
The local authority is seeking to play a greater role in “maximising” the development of cheaper housing across the county.
Domestic income has failed to keep pace with the rise of Kent house prices, impacting on choice and affordability, which has been exacerbated due to overspill pressures from London caused by shortages and higher prices.
KCC’s affordable housing select committee will meet for the first time next Tuesday (December 17) as the cross-party group seek to look at Kent’s current housing situation and explore additional ways in which the authority can help.
Cllr Trudy Dean (Lib Dem), a member of the new committee, said: “The big question is how can KCC use its considerable budget and influence to improve the planning and house building systems to the benefit of residents and protect Kent’s rapidly disappearing countryside at the same time.”
Cllr Robert Thomas (Con) will chair the new committee, which includes seven Conservative representatives, KCC’s Labour party leader Dara Farrell and Cllr Dean, the county council’s former Liberal Democrat leader.
Several public hearings will take place over the next six months where the committee will likely hold discussions with local organisations that support vulnerable people to meet their housing needs, such as Shelter and Porchlight.
Mortgage providers, senior council officers, academics, professionals, Government representatives and KCC’s new cabinet member for economic development, Cllr Mike Whiting (Con), have been listed as potential invitees. Site visits could also be arranged as part of the evidence gathering process.
A KCC report published ahead of next week’s meeting states: “Housing development needs to be of a sufficient scale to make sure that it is affordable and to make a difference.
“Every person should be given the opportunity to live in good quality and affordable housing.”
A full report making recommendations going forward will be published in June before being discussed at KCC’s full council on July 16.
The committee’s first session will take place in Maidstone County Hall’s Stour Room on Tuesday, December 17.