The March meeting of Labour members examined the issue of housing with a strong focus on the local situation in Guildford.
To remind everyone of the plight of those who have no home at all, the meeting heard first from Cellou Diallo from Guildford’s Homeless outreach team. He outlined the work of the unit and identified some of the problems which lead to homelessness, pointing out that most of their clients are local people.
We then heard from local party member Nick Bragger who looked at the issues for those renting houses in the town. Issues range from the cost of renting, which goes ever upwards, the uses of clauses to ensure leases are short term and the quality of housing. He is exploring the possibility of creating a Renters’ Association to represent the interests of this group.
Our second external speaker was Greg Melly from the University of Surrey. Greg provided a great deal of data on the growth of Guildford, both as an economy and in population. He gave some in-depth figures for the impact of students on Guildford’s housing market and accepted that there has been a massive market failure. The University is trying to address some of the issue with its own housing developments, but accepted that the university and the town need to work together to provide more suitable housing.
Finally Lynda MacDermott gave an eloquent appeal for quality in the housing that is built, insisting that everyone deserves a decent space to live.
But there was one overwhelming theme from every speaker; Guildford needs to build far more houses than it has so far managed. The shortfall between the number of houses built and the need for houses is large and getting worse every year. If the town is to continue to thrive it needs to get to grips with this basic fact.