AT a time of acute housing shortage, moves to withdraw council tax discounts on empty properties, reduce exemptions for second homes and charge a premium council tax rate on long-term unoccupied properties, are a welcome step in moving to significantly reduce the number of empty homes in the district.

However, while our housing crisis may in part be solved by ensuring that as few homes as possible remain empty, many will recognise the need to develop new and affordable housing for purchase and for rent.

This week, I asked the leader of Malvern Hills District Council whether he agreed that, using the power to set up trading activity established by the wellbeing power in statute, the council should establish its own council-owned housing company, funded through housing revenue account borrowing and through the HCA-funded local authority new-build programme, to build affordable housing that incidentally would allow the council to enjoy a direct return to this council through rental income and capital appreciation?

His response was a concise if unhelpful, ‘No’.

I am looking forward, therefore, to hearing how at a time of woefully weak development control, imposed on us by national government, he will ensure that the large developers – whose first duty is to their shareholders and not local people – will meet their requirements to build affordable homes to buy and to rent, so our young people can continue to live and work in Malvern.

Julian D Roskams

Malvern town and district councillor