If anyone has been following the news recently, they will have seen more and more articles about the growing housing crisis in the UK. Housing is becoming less and less affordable, and too many people are either stuck in temporary accommodation or stuck in private rented accommodation that is keeping many young people off the property ladder.
We are aware of this in Watford. That’s why, despite it being made difficult by central government, we have made our own housing company and have been working with the Watford Community Housing Trust to build more affordable homes. Since I have been your mayor I have always been honest with you and that we have to take tough decisions to build the homes our borough needs.
However, the government have now told councils that we are expected to build a huge number of new homes in their attempt to build their way out of this housing crisis. Officers at Watford Borough Council have calculated that it could lead to Watford having to build double the current number of homes than we do at the moment.
This is madness. Watford is one of the smallest geographic boroughs outside of London. There is simply not enough room for our borough to accommodate double the number of houses that we currently planning on building without there being a serious impact on our local schools, transport links and doctors surgeries.
It’s not just in Watford. I have been meeting with other leaders in Hertfordshire who have the same problem. It’s not fair that local councils have had the goalposts moved like this on them when it comes to housing. We are being expected to deliver an unrealistic number of homes which will almost certainly have a detrimental impact on the town.
We need government to listen to local councils about what is and what isn’t achievable. It’s only then that we can really bring an end to our housing crisis.
l Dorothy Thornhill is Elected Mayor of Watford