Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Affordable housing in East Devon: lack of building... and lack of transparency...

The South West has a real problem when it comes to providing 'affordable housing', as the Western Daily Press reveals:

Revealed: Just FIVE truly affordable homes available in entire districts of the West

By TristanCork | Posted: April 28, 2015

For a family needing two bedrooms, just one-in-20 homes in the West are affordable.

The shocking extent of the housing crisis engulfing the West has been revealed – there are some parts of the region where only five houses are available to buy that are truly affordable.

Overall, only one in 20 homes on the market for sale today are within the reach of people earning even the average household wage of £30,000 a year, and for families with more than one child barely one in every 100 is affordable.

The report by housing charity Shelter comes as even housing developers warned that the problem of a booming housing market pricing out the average buyer is about to get a lot worse. Barratts Homes said new rules allowing pensioners to 'cash-out' their pensions early is expected to lead to an explosion in more 'buy-to-let' properties as pensioners invest their money in property rather than pensions.

Shelter analysed the housing market in every district in the West, and compared the asking price of every home with the kind of mortgage that an average family buying their first home could afford.

Only six per cent of homes were affordable for a family that only needed two bedrooms. If a family needed three bedrooms, just one per cent were within reach.

The problem is so bad that in some parts of the region, hundreds of people looking to buy their own home are battling for just a handful of affordable properties. In both the Mendip district of Somerset and the Cotswold district in Gloucestershire, there are currently only five homes on the market that an average family could afford. In West Somerset there are six, and in north Dorset, Bath and North East Somerset and Weymouth there are just eight.

Most rural areas of the West, from Stroud and South Gloucestershire to north Devon and west Dorset, there less than four per cent of homes for sale that are affordable.

"Nearly 95 per cent of homes on the market are off limits for a typical family in the West, and this is nothing short of a scandal," said Campbell Robb, the chief executive of Shelter. "Decades of failing to deliver the homes we need is leaving millions trapped in expensive and unstable private renting, or in their childhood bedrooms, with barely a hope of saving for a home of their own. It's no wonder that a week out from election day, affordable housing is a key concern for those heading to the polling booths.

"For the next government, whoever that may be, it's time for the talk to stop and the work to begin. Politicians need to act swiftly to deliver the plan that will build the 250,000 homes a year we need, or millions more people will be forced to kiss their dreams of a stable and affordable place to live goodbye," he added.

The Shelter report looked in detail at what was actually affordable for families taking home the average household income in each of the districts they lived – so the 'affordable' threshold of house prices is actually different in different areas. In most parts of the region, the Shelter methodology considered anything over around £140,000 or £150,000 unaffordable to people on average earnings.

"This methodology is actually generous, because it assumes this average family have somehow managed to save the average deposit of around 17 per cent, and a mortgage lender is prepared to lend them 3.4 times their salary," said a Shelter spokesman. "Affordable doesn't just mean the asking price of a house, but also whether they could afford to repay the monthly mortgage repayments."

The housing crisis has suddenly exploded into life as a key election issue, with all three main parties unveiling new policies aimed at tackling it. The Lib Dems began with a loan for people to afford their first deposit for rented accommodation, then the Tories unveiled a right-to-buy for housing association tenants, and now Labour have unveiled a raft of policies designed to help both first-time buyers and people struggling in rented.

The managing director of Barratt Homes weighed in to the debate yesterday by predicting a rise in the number of buy-to-let investors fuelled by the pension changes which are allowing pensioners to 'cash-out' their pensions early.

Russell Glimstead said his firm has already seen an increase in enquiries from potential buyers looking to invest their pension in property and rent it out. "We have already been seeing investors opting for property rather than savings accounts but this will rise again now that newly retired people can invest in a wide range of products and for many this will be bricks and mortar," he said.

Shelter said this would exacerbate the problem of the lack of affordable homes to buy – because first-time buyers would be in competition with even more newly-minted pensioners.

Revealed: Just FIVE truly affordable homes available in entire districts of the West | Western Daily Press

The East Devon councils are trying to do their bit - but the numbers are minimal and the process is not exactly transparent:

East Devon Council to buy empty buildings on Exmouth site in plan to address affordable housing shortage

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: April 28, 2015
Comments (1)

EAST Devon District Council is planning to buy three empty buildings on a site in Exmouth from Devon County Council with a view to addressing the area’s affordable housing shortage.

The district authority has reached agreement in principle to purchase land at Mudbank Lane with the intention of enabling a mixed-use housing development on the site with 50 per cent affordable housing.

The council has been unable to confirm how many houses will be provided or how much the county authority is charging them for the plot.

The land is currently occupied by former residential care facilities, Danby House, the Marjorie Moore Centre and Exebank. The sale will be conditional on obtaining planning approval for a development of mixed tenure new homes, some of which would be sold on the open market while others would be available for rent and shared ownership.

As previously reported by the Echo last summer, Devon County Council has been spending tens of thousands of pounds a year on its disused, empty buildings.

In figures obtained by the Echo through a Freedom of Information request, as of last July the county authority had a total of 19 empty and unused buildings surplus to their requirements and all but one was earmarked to be sold on.

During the last tax year, Exebank care home which has been empty since 2011 when it was mothballed, and Danby House day centre, which has been closed for seven years, cost the council £21,900.

County ward member for Exmouth, Councillor Eileen Wragg said public money is being “wasted” on empty and derelict buildings when the county authority faced millions of pounds of budget cuts.

The new agreement between the two councils means that the district council can now proceed with the purchase of the land with the aim to enter into a partnership agreement with a housing provider to build a range of new homes on the site.

The deal was first mooted in the autumn and discussions took place in commercial confidence at meetings of the district council’s Housing Review Board and Cabinet.

County Hall has now confirmed in writing that it is willing to sell the land and district council cabinet members have approved the purchase going ahead as soon as all the legal formalities can be dealt with.


oldsceptic | April 28 2015, 2:42PM

Not "The council has been unable to confirm how many houses will be provided or how much the county authority is charging them for the plot." for they are perfectly able to do so. As usual its a case of unwilling to be transparent.

East Devon Council to buy empty buildings on Exmouth site in plan to address affordable housing shortage | Exeter Express and Echo

This is the comment from the East Devon Watch blog:


28th April 2015

But remember that “affordable” means 90% of market rent.

Why not a Community Land Teust for 100% affordable housing for lical people as has been done in other areas. And what about self-builds?

And surely these political decisions did not take place behind closed doirs during the Purdah period?

And it will be SO interesting to see which housebuilder they pair with!

EDDC in secret talks with DCC to build (some) affordable housing in Exmouth | East Devon Watch

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