In September 2016, nine new council houses were completed on Hawkins Road, replacing a set of garages with desperately needed new homes. Initially there were some objections to the plans, but I have spoken to many affected residents who understand the extent of the housing crisis and who were glad to support the project.
Sadly, one year later and to the considerable frustration of the community, these houses continue to sit empty. Failures in project management mean that the properties remain without electricity and, in turn, more people suffer due to the Cambridge housing crisis.
These houses are just one part of the ‘146 Programme’, a project to build 146 homes across the city and awarded to the developers at Keepmoat. The management of this contract has clearly failed, with local Cllr Kevin Price taking to Cambridge News to voice his frustrations. Cllr Price blames Keepmoat for the delays and failures (and seeks to end their contract). As the Exec Councillor for Housing, this is the the crudest form of contract management available to Cllr Price and fails to address the project management weaknesses of the Council that led to these delays in the first place.
I have raised this issue with Rod Cantrill, the local Housing Spokes for the Lib Dems, who has repeatedly challenged the Council Exec for faster delivery of homes. He recently commented that Hawkins Road is another “illustration of the shameful position the council has got itself into. When there are over 2500 households on the councils waiting list, it can’t even deliver 9 new homes for 9 of those households.”
Nine new homes are not going to solve the Cambridge crisis, but they are going to solve the crisis for nine households currently unable to find security in our city. The project could also be used as an important lesson for improvement in the future. I recently congratulated Kevin Price on his appointment to Chair of the GCP Assembly, but upon reflection I would recommend that Cllr Price should take lessons from this recent failures and refocus his efforts on his existing responsibilities to deliver homes in our city.