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Concerns intermediate rents are pricing-out 'key workers' in Cambridge

By Ben Comber

Properties to let on Water Lane, Chesterton, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell
Properties to let on Water Lane, Chesterton, Cambridge . Picture: Keith Heppell

Calls for London-style 'living rent' introduction based on one-third of income.

Low to intermediate earners in Cambridge are being expected to pay over a third of their income on rent in order to secure a flat in some Cambridge City Council properties.

Water Lane in Cambridge, which was visited by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn last month, is one such city council scheme aimed at the intermediate market, defined as those who don’t have a priority need for social housing but who struggle to pay for private sector rental homes in Cambridge’s high-cost rental market.

The Water Lane site belongs entirely to the council, but 14 flats in one block are for City Homes, let through the housing needs register to those on the ‘waiting list’ at Local Housing Allowance rent levels.

Nine other houses on the site were bought by the Cambridge City Housing Company to form part of its property portfolio to let at submarket rents.

Monthly rent, including service charges, for a single-bed flat on Water Lane costs £919 a month, and occupants must earn £27,500 a year minimum.

The council says it’s the maximum income level, of £41,000, that is the key point, excluding higher earners.

Cllr Kevin Price, Labour’s candidate for mayor and Cambridge City Council’s executive councillor for housing, said: “Cambridge City Housing Company are providing brand new, high-quality homes to let at rents set below the private sector equivalent for comparable homes, and our tenants benefit from longer, more secure tenancies of up to three years and minimum fees.

“We use a maximum household income level for applicants to ensure that only those who don’t have priority for our social housing but who struggle to pay the city’s high private sector rents are able to apply for them.

“The homes form a small part of the answer to addressing the city’s housing affordability crisis, but has to sit alongside the pressing need to build new council homes for those on lower incomes, with social rents set at Local Housing Allowance levels.

“Our plans to do this were hit by the Government’s decision to impose a one per cent cut on our council rents in 2015, and that is why the £70million for more than 500 new council homes in the Devolution Deal is so important.

“Forty per cent of those who work in Cambridge earn less than £22,000, and for those households our council homes will always be the primary answer to having a secure and decent home.”

Cllr Rod Cantrill, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor, says Cambridgeshire should follow in the footsteps of London mayor Sadiq Khan, who is building more than 58,500 ‘London Living Rent’ or shared ownership homes that would be ‘genuinely affordable’, based on one-third of the area’s average household income.

“The local living rent product is really interesting. As I speak to businesses around the region, they are telling me their employees are choosing not to work for them because they can’t afford to live here,” said Cllr Cantrill.

“People are being forced to live way out of the city and there’s no public transport on weekends to let them come to the city if they need to work.”

This new system would be put into place instead of the ‘submarket rents’ – 80 per cent of equivalent private sector rents for a similar property – that are used by the city council to price intermediate housing.


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