Housing shortages in places such as Crawley have been blamed on immigration by the leader of the borough council’s Conservative group.
Councillor Duncan Crow said that housing had become the number one issue in the town, and like many parts of the South East it was suffering from a ‘demand and supply problem’.
At Crawley Question Time held The Hawth Theatre last night (Tuesday March 8) he explained that housebuilding was not keeping up with population growth, and although people were living longer immigration was a bigger factor.
To some jeers from the audience, Cllr Crow added: “It’s not ridiculous, it’s a fact. Immigration is one of the main drivers of population growth in the UK.”
He suggested that private housing was becoming unaffordable to normal people, but felt that the Government’s Help to Buy scheme was providing some help.
However, he said that if Britain were to vote to leave the EU in June’s referendum the country could gain ‘some control over the growth in population’.
But Councillor Peter Lamb, Labour’s leader of Crawley Borough Council, replied: “The prime cause of the housing crisis now is that people actually are living longer and in smaller households.”
He said it was great that people were living longer, but it did have practical implications, and while the town was not building enough houses, the country was also suffering the ‘biggest shortage of construction skills ever’.
He added: “I’m in favour of staying in the EU. It’s not going to make a blind bit of difference to what we need to build.”
He explained the council was looking at every site within the town’s boundaries but they had to look to neighbouring councils to help them meet their total housing need.
Cllr Lamb added: “We will do what we can but unless we are going to have a policy change [at central Government level], we are really stuck.”
Liz Roe, scheme manager at Home-Start Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex (CHAMS), felt that housing was a ‘huge issue’ and she saw the impact inadequate housing was having on families.
She added: “It really does concern me we are in a situation where we have families with very young children living in second or third floor flats with no fresh air available to them, or families attempting to live in houses that are far too small, and crammed into whatever space we have available.”
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