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Pioneer 'living rents' in Cambridge council housing developments say Liberal Democrats

By Ben Comber

Mortgage concept by money house from the coins
Mortgage concept by money house from the coins

They say the council's redevelopment of the Mill Road depot should have twice as much affordable housing and 'living rents'.

The city council’s Liberal Democrats want most of the new housing envisaged in the redevelopment of its old depot site on Mill Road to be affordable - and a new “living rent” approach focused on tenants’ income, not the market.

They are proposing this in next week’s full council meeting. Lib Dem Housing spokesperson Cllr Rod Cantrill, who earlier this year ran for Combined Authority mayor, says the redevelopment is a unique opportunity to ‘show leadership in the face of the city’s chronic housing crisis’.

He said: “If we can’t be bold and pioneering on a site like this that the council already owns, where can we?”

“This is a critical test for the leaders of the council on one of the biggest challenges facing people here.”

On this site Cllr Cantrill wants to see double the normally expected affordable housing, 40 per cent, which would mean 177 out of the 222 total units.

He says these affordable homes should be split between council homes on social rents and homes provided at ‘living rents’ set at a third of tenants’ income - believed to be the first time such an innovative model would have been adopted outside London.

Cllr Cantrill continued: “The housing market in Cambridge is broken. The majority of residents can’t afford to rent or buy a property in the city. This is particularly the case for people on low salaries doing critical jobs such as care workers, nurses and teachers. Even some kinds of affordable rent in Cambridge are not affordable for many residents. The housing needs register has over 2,500 households seeking accommodation.

“In the medium to long term we need to fundamentally review the supply of housing in and around Cambridge. However, in the short term, key stakeholders like the city council should act to relieve this unacceptable pressure for residents.

“We are calling for the council to come forward with a bold vision for the Mill Road Depot that helps meet this need. That vision should be based on a highly sustainable development, based on a level of 80% of affordable homes with the majority being social homes rented on a Local Authority rental basis.

“In addition to the council helping those residents needing social housing, it is important that the council does as much as possible to help those residents doing important jobs in Cambridge but can’t afford to live in the city. Our proposal to offer an element of council owned homes on the site on a ‘Local Living Rent’ basis. This is a rental product where the rent is determined based on one third of the tenants income rather than with reference to a discount to market rents. The use of the Local Living Rent product would be ground breaking for a UK city outside London.”


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