Whitehall pledge on affordable homes

PEOPLE living in expensive homes in rural East Anglia will not be allowed to block the building of social housing, the Government has warned.New Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says her personal priority is to provide more council and affordable properties and she will “root out” opposition from householders to new estates in their neighbourhoods.

By Graham Dines

PEOPLE living in expensive homes in rural East Anglia will not be allowed to block the building of social housing, the Government has warned.

New Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says her personal priority is to provide more council and affordable properties and she will “root out” opposition from householders to new estates in their neighbourhoods.

Ms Kelly, who has taken over John Prescott's jobs in charge of planning, housing development and local government, has sided with families whose children are being forced to move out of villages and market towns into urban areas because of the lack of affordable housing.

She wants to change planning laws to smooth the way for new developments and an end to the culture of householders being “protective of their own space”' and raising objections to social housing developments near their homes.

Ms Kelly said that the key to the problem was not changes to the waiting list system, but the construction of new homes which ordinary people can afford.

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She said: “The number of social homes has been on a long-term downward trend, although it is starting to turn round - over the next few years, 30,000 social homes will be built every year.”

Suffolk West MP Richard Spring agreed that there had to be more social and affordable homes built in rural communities to provide homes for key workers and the low paid.

“However, the only way to provide a sensible balance is for permissions to be granted by councils. The solution is not to centralise power in the hands of a Secretary of State sitting in Whitehall, which will only lead to the concretisation of the landscape.

“Local authorities are best placed to judge the mix between private and social housing and to protect the environment the precious environment.”

Ms Kelly's comments came as politicians and pressure groups said more social housing had to be provided to stem support for the far right British National Party. Labour former minister Frank Field suggested that established members of communities should be given priority over single mothers and the homeless in the queue for council homes.

And Shelter director Adam Sampson warned that a shortage of affordable homes was fuelling a “blame culture” in which white people accuse council housing departments of favouring ethnic minorities.

Ms Kelly's pledge on affordable housing came as it was announced that more than 6,000 new affordable homes are to be built in rural communities throughout England, following a £230 million cash boost from the Housing Corporation's £3.9 billion National Affordable Housing Programme 2006-2008.

The third highest allocation has been given to the six counties of the East of England - £42.9m which will provide 1,214 homes.

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