OPPOSITION councillors have slammed the council over what they claim is a failure to address problems that have left more than half of Thurrock’s residents unable to afford a home.
Last week the council published a report which laid out a bleak picture of the housing situation where house prices have jumped by an average of 50 per cent in just five years.
It noted that 52 per cent of people living in the borough do not meet the “affordability requirements to purchase the smallest types of property available” and rental prices have also shot up by 30 per cent.
The revelations have resulted in heavy criticisms from opposition councillors who claim that the Conservative administration has “sleepwalked” into the problems the borough now faces.
Labour Councillor Lynn Worrall, who chairs the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “The current housing situation is not something that has hit us overnight and I am disappointed that the current administration sleepwalked into many of the problems we now face.
“They have failed to adapt to the changes in the housing market and done very little to put residents and local families at the forefront of their policies. They fail to challenge their own government and this has resulted in Thurrock residents getting a poor deal.
“Sadly, we have got to a stage where the developers are getting approval for building houses that do not have our own agreed levels of social and affordable homes built into their planning permission.
“This has resulted in the houses that are built valued out of reach for Thurrock residents and many young families are simply priced out of the market altogether.”
She added that the housing crisis is leading to the loss of highly skilled residents who are moving elsewhere to avoid the high costs.
“We need to have a housing policy that encourages university students back to Thurrock,” she said.
“They spend years getting a degree, living independently and then find they have to move home again as they cannot afford to rent here in Thurrock let alone buy a starter home.
“The housing policy unfairly discriminates against those who get themselves a university education as they are no longer even allowed to join the housing register if they live at home with their parents.”
At the start of the year there was more than 9,000 people on the council’s housing waitlist but policy changes meant that young people on low income and living with their parents are no longer able to apply and neither can older residents looking to move to sheltered housing.
When the policy change was discussed at the end of last year, council officers said the reason was to stop people from having “unrealistic expectations” that they will get a home.
Councillor Luke Spillman, leader of the Thurrock Independents, said he had “lost count of the amount of times” he had raised the seriousness of the housing crisis to the council and yet there has not been “any meaningful plans for any new social homes”.
He went on to accuse both the national government and the administration of being “ideologically opposed” to building social housing.
“This crisis was not unforeseen. It has been highlighted for over a decade,” he continued.
“The way out of this mess is clear, invest heavily in social home building. Private development will never solve the housing crisis. Developers will always limit supply to increase sale prices. We just need leadership at both a national and local level with the will act.”
Thurrock Council was asked about the report and what is being done to support people who are looking to buy a home in the borough but they did not respond.
However, the authority has been keen to highlight that it is building council homes and £32million has been set aside to fund a number of developments. They also have stated an ambition to build up to 500 new homes over the next five to 10 years.