It's high time Portsmouth's council made homes more affordable | The News comment

Many families will be welcoming the news that affordable homes for rent are to be built in Portsmouth as part of a £33.5m scheme to ease the city's housing problems.
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Plans for nearly 100 affordable homes in Portsmouth

Five sites in the city are earmarked for development and the proposal, due to be discussed in detail next week, is to build 95 affordable homes and 135 private houses.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson hit the nail on the head when he said: '˜Unfortunately the council was forced to sell over 16,000 properties under the right to buy scheme which was great for the people who bought them but for the generation that followed it was really rubbish.

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'˜That meant 16,000 fewer properties for local people to be able to live in.'

Indeed, the right to buy scheme masterminded by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s was widely applauded for its ambitions to widen home ownership and stimulate national prosperity.

But a lot has happened to the economy since then, and crowded cities like Portsmouth now have long waiting lists of people needing a home, as well as growing numbers of people with no roof over their heads, forced to sleep rough on the streets.

Housing associations stepped into the void to help house people, but decisive action is needed by local authorities to help house the people they serve.

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Compared to the 16,000 council houses sold off in an ambitious and, some might say, short-sighted policy, 95 new homes for people to rent seems like a drop in the ocean.

But it is a welcome start.

Mike Taylor, director of operations at homeless charity Society of St James, said: '˜We welcome anything in terms of more affordable homes.'

And there is the key.

The sale of private homes will doubtless help fund the scheme, but what is affordable to some might still be out of reach to others.

Let's hope that in this case, the homes are affordable to the people who really need them.