Sunday, 15 March 2015

Shared ownership: rally in Westminster Tues March 17th >>> calling on politicians “to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation”

A campaign by the National Housing Federation - 'the voice of housing associations - will kick off formally with a rally in London this Tuesday:

The Rally

Thousands of people will be coming together in the heart of Westminster for the biggest housing rally in a generation to urge the parties to back our call.
The biggest housing rally in a generation is set to take place on 17 March 2015. Organised by Homes for Britain, the united voice for housing, the event will bring together 2,500 people in the heart of Westminster to call for 'an end to the housing crisis within a generation'.  
We will be taking our message to politicians just before the General Election and we want you to be part of this unique moment.
This rally will bring together every part of the housing world - from private developers to homelessness campaigners, from social housing providers to private landlords. 
We all stand united in our desire to work with the next government to end the housing crisis once and for all. And we will be joined by those affected by the day-to-day challenges it brings, and who are looking to the industry and the next government to build the decent homes they so desperately need. 

The Rally | General election | Get involved | National Housing Federation

And this is the message they will be sending out:

We are calling for all political parties to commit to 

end the housing crisis 

within a generation.

Home - Homes For Britain

In the Western Morning News last month, the head of the Devon & Cornwall Housing Group outlined their campaign:

Campaign to end housing crisis as prices rise to more than 11 times region's average wage

By WMNJBayley | Posted: February 11, 2015

James and Georgia Brand and their sons in their new home in Cranbrook

Susie and Ben Quick and their children outside their home in Merton

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Experts have long been warning that the UK is in the midst of a housing crisis, as prices in the Westcountry have soared to more than 11 times the region’s average wage.

But housing associations are rallying behind a new “Homes for Britain” campaign to get the issue placed firmly on the political and social agenda in the run up to May’s election.

And Paul Crawford, CEO of Devon and Cornwall Housing Group (DCH), is hoping his organisation will lead the charge in the South West.

In terms of what the crisis looks like for the region, Mr Crawford explained that based on waiting list figures alone, 60,000 residents are struggling to find affordable accommodation.

“And they’re just the individuals who have gone directly to local authorities,” he said. “That doesn’t even deal with the many more people who might be working but nevertheless have housing issues or can’t afford to get on the housing ladder.

“Nationally what we’re seeing is supply not being delivered to meet demand. We should be building something like 240,000 homes a year, but we’re only actually building something like 110,000-120,000. This limited supply means that prices are going up – and are now higher than they were at their peak in 2008. Yet wages haven’t increased to the same level.

“As a result, the average house price to salary ratio in Devon and Cornwall is now is something like 10-14 times that of house price to income. This is an awful lot of data that is basically screaming out: we have a housing problem.” According to the latest figures, the average house price in Cornwall has risen to roughly £223,000, while in neighbouring Devon it is just over £234,000. But average wages in the counties are stagnating at just £17,664 and £17,867 respectively.

This disparity is particularly severe in rural areas such as the South Hams, where below average wages and “pretty premiums” have driven house prices up to 17 times more than the local yearly salary.

Mr Crawford said the impact this was having on local communities was manifesting itself “in a variety of ways”. “You’ve got rural communities where the next generation who want to get on the housing ladder and want to stay locally, are being squeezed out,” he said. “This is not necessarily because of second home owners, but because land is expensive and houses are expensive and they simply can’t afford to buy where they’ve grown up.

“We’re also seeing tensions develop around how businesses can attract staff. If you talk to employers, they will say the two biggest challenges facing the South West are infrastructure and affordable housing for the workforce. Good quality affordable homes mean that industry and commerce flourish, because businesses can attract a workforce and pay staff at a level where they can live within commuting distance.”

He said the current housing problem had been brewing in Britain for well over a decade, adding that a lack of political will – as well as obligation the part of private sector developers – meant it had failed to become a national priority.

This, he said, was where the new National Housing Federation (NHF) Homes for Britain campaign comes in.

“Leading up to an election, one of the issues that we’ve been talking about with the NHF is that housing isn’t up there in the top four of five issues on the agenda – it’s barely hitting the top ten at the moment. Rightly health, education, immigration are issues that are of concern to people, but we’re never going to solve the housing problem if we don’t see it as a problem.

“The new campaign is about raising awareness as much as anything. It’s a rallying cry for residents in Devon and Cornwall who know that children and relatives are struggling to get on the housing ladder. It’s about them saying ‘this is important to us’ to whoever is in power. Because if the local population see it as a priority I think we’ve got more of a chance of local politicians taking it seriously and influencing policy. And it’s also about holding a mirror up to ourselves as an organisation and saying ‘we have a role to play in this’.”

The National Housing Federation-led campaign, which launches at Land’s End on February 17, will see housing associations, builders groups and landlords host events up and down to the country, in a bid to raise public and political awareness about the issue of affordability. It will tour Cornwall, Devon and the rest of the UK before culminating in a mass rally in Westminster on March 17, where supporters will call on politicians “to commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation”

Mr Crawford said that a key part of the solution for the South West would be securing local and central Government support for building more houses, as tackling the crisis would become a “significantly greater challenge without leadership support”. It would also mean working alongside developers and fellow housing associations to create between 50-100% more new homes in the region.

He admitted it would be “naïve” to assume they could eradicate waiting lists entirely, “but if we could go some way towards dealing with the ongoing supply issue, it will hopefully keep houses at an affordable level. This will mean that the vast majority of people can afford to live and work in communities and, ultimately, flourish.”

Government changes to planning policy has “exacerbated” the housing crisis, the head of a leading affordable housing developer has claimed.

Mr Crawford said amendments to section 106 obligations was encouraging unhelpful behaviour in the housing sector. He added that the changes, which exempt certain small-scale housing developments from including affordable provisions, had removed crucial “legislative recognition” of the need for such homes.

“We feel passionate that where there are developments, they shouldn’t just be for outright sale,” he explained. “Our view is, if there is a demonstrable need for affordable housing, the obligation on local authorities should be to try and deliver on that. By creating an environment where small developments can be excluded from providing affordable homes, you’re encouraging behaviour that will do nothing but exacerbate the challenges that already exist. We’re not particularly impressed by it.”

He said that the changes would mean associations like DCH could no longer rely on other developers to give them their 106 provisions. “One of the things that’s important for us as an organisation is to be less reliant on section 106 to provide affordable homes and to recognise we have a responsibility to go out and build our own homes,” he said. “We will just have to work closely with local authorities where there is an issue.”

Home gives family quality time

Ben and Susie Quick moved into an affordable rented property in Merton, North Devon, with their two daughters after spending many years in expensive private rented accommodation.

Mrs Quick said the house was a “dream come true” for the family. “Being near to our friends and family is so important to us, we were eager to live in the same area as them,” she said.

“Now we live right across the road from my father, meaning we can all spend quality time together. The way the homes have been built means they are well insulated and we save money on our bills. We have also been able to get rid of our car as we can walk to our children’s school, making a real difference to our lives.”

Shared owner deal 'changed our lives'

James and Georgia Brand moved into a three-bedroom home in Cranbrook, East Devon, with their two young sons after living in a small flat in Exeter for nearly a decade. The couple took advantage of a shared ownership initiative in the newly-established town, which allowed them to buy part of the property with an option to buy a greater share in the future.

Mr Brand, who works for an aerospace company in nearby Sowton, said the move had transformed their lives. “The boys are doing really well here, the bills are more affordable and the house is much better for us than where we were living,” he said. “We work different hours, which isn’t always easy; having a more suitable home for the family does make this a lot easier.

“There are a few people I work with who are thinking of moving here and I have encouraged them to come and have a look. It’s made a big difference to us and I think we will be here for a long time to come.”

Building more homes could benefit region’s economy by £250m

Tackling the South West’s housing crisis could provide a £250 million boost for the region’s economy, new figures reveal. It could also create 5,400 full-time jobs, as well as helping thousands of families struggling to find affordable accommodation.

The research by the National Housing Federation (NHF) shows developers need to build 6,000 affordable homes a year in the Westcountry to keep pace with demand. But the organisation, which represents housing associations across the UK, found that last year the region built just 4,100 homes – a third of the number required.

NHF and its members have responded to the findings by launching a new campaign, calling on the public and politicians to recognise the economic and social benefits of addressing the housing crisis.

Jenny Allen, South West external affairs manager at NHF, said the numbers showed that new homes were “more than roofs over heads”. “They also bring wealth to local areas and improve job prospects,” she explained. “That’s why we’re asking that politicians commit to ending the housing crisis within a generation by building more homes now.

“People across the region are struggling to find the homes they need at a price they can afford. Not building the full number of homes we’re going to need represents a failing of generations to come, and a missed opportunity today.”

The NHF has calculated that nationally, building enough affordable homes to meet demand would contribute £3.6 billion to the economy and support over 71,000 full-time jobs. In areas of Somerset, Devon, Torbay and Plymouth covered by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), it said the annual benefit would equate to a

£70 million boost.

While in the area of the region covered by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, meeting housing demand would inject almost £29 million into the local economy and generate 615 new jobs.

A spokesman for the Heart of the South West LEP said the organisation recognised the economic benefits of affordable accommodation and supported the federation’s aims. “Unaffordable housing is a challenge in our area as house prices are 11.5 times the average wage, and demand is putting even more pressure on housing stock which causes rising rents,” he said.

Ban second home-owners buying new homes in popular rural villages - report

Campaign to end housing crisis as prices rise to more than 11 times region's average wage | Western Morning News

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