Hugo Malik

I moved to Norwich in 2012 and have been a private renter here with my family ever since.

In that time I’ve seen the cost of renting rise every year.

Whether it's landlords increasing the rent or bills through the roof it’s harder to make it to the end of the month with any money left in your pocket.

It paints a pretty bleak picture that in our city families with two full time working parents might be facing homelessness if they can’t make the rent.

Most private renters are just a pay cheque away from homelessness and it's only getting worse with the cost of living crisis. 

In 2019 Norwich City Council recommitted itself to its local policy of making sure that 33% of all large scale applications from private developers should be allocated for affordable housing, with four out of five of those units available at social rent. 

It’s a policy that, if put into practice, would go a long way to taking on the cost of private renting while providing a safety net for families, for young people and for people who fall on hard times.

But it would also show that Norwich is prepared to lead the way in local authorities standing up to developers who want to make millions in profits off our communities.

The Anglia Square application is the largest application to test this policy, and if voted through next week, it will be a huge failure of our local council to take the housing emergency seriously.

This is a development which is an insult to anyone with experience of being priced out of renting.

The application, which plans to build 1,100 housing units, falls short of even committing to 10% of these being truly affordable.

Look a little deeper into the plans and you will see that even in the provision for the ‘affordable’ flats, most of these designed as very small single bed rooms with very few details given as to why this breakdown of units would benefit the community.

I think we all know a parent for whom a social rent home would be a life saver.

It would mean the difference between constant financial strain, and being able to provide a safe, secure home for their kids.

Meanwhile, these plans, projected to make developers huge sums of money, want to be let off paying community infrastructure levy to the tune of £7.5 million, money that Norwich City Council could put back into our community.

It could hardly get any worse.

We need our councillors to listen to the reality people in Norwich are facing. Yes, Norwich needs homes and Anglia Square needs investment, but it needs truly affordable, high quality and social homes alongside real investment that supports independent local businesses and the community.

The only legacy of this development in its current form, would be to drive up rents, force people out of the city and make Norwich look like an easy target for developers who are playing the long game in terms of financial gain at the detriment of our communities.

Hugo Malik is a member of the Norwich Renters Collective