Ray Dawe: We need more ‘affordable’ housing for younger people

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We need to guard against losing our talented 18-35 year old generation and becoming a retirement place where only older people can afford to live. We need to provide more homes for younger people.

Compared with many council areas our record is a good one. In spite of a very difficult economic background over the last few years, Horsham District Council and its housing association partners have delivered an increase in affordable homes year on year throughout the recession.

In the 2013-14 year a record 239 affordable homes – over a third of our annual house build - were completed in the Horsham District.

If a home is classed as ‘affordable’, it means that the purchase price or rent is set at a level that people on low to moderate incomes can afford. It is for people who would not be able to rent or buy on the open market.

Affordable homes include those for social (low) rent, intermediate rent, and shared ownership - where the purchaser acquires a percentage of the equity at a level they can afford.

Although not strictly classed as ‘affordable’, we are also looking at how we can provide plots for self-build for those who are able to take a much more active role in providing a home for themselves and thus reduce its cost.

Affordable housing in Horsham District is targeted specifically at households with a local connection and are in housing need.

You are considered to have a local connection if you have lived in the District for the past two years.

In the rural parishes, the local connection criteria are extended to include working in the parish, or having relatives already living in the parish who provide or require your support.

There is an ever widening gap between those able to access our local housing market and those who cannot.

A joint income of at least £48,000 per year is now needed to buy a property in the Horsham District. The private rented sector locally only represents about nine per cent of our total housing stock.

Consequently, rents are comparatively high and competition for such properties is great.

We have a generation of heavily indebted graduates, an ageing population, more people living alone and public resistance to new housing development. These conflicts and tensions prevent local young people accessing the housing they need.

Even those younger residents on higher incomes are often unable to afford to buy yet they earn too much to qualify for low rent social housing.

Over the summer the council will be exploring new ways by which we can deliver a good proportion of private rented accommodation in new developments.

We shall also look at appropriate council land holdings to identify potential housing sites and at further opportunities to acquire land for this purpose. In addition, we should look at offering more help for prospective tenants from a special tenancy deposit scheme run by the council.

As part of the Housing and Jobs Plan for the next 20 years, recently approved by the council, all residential developments of five dwellings or more will now be expected to include affordable homes, with a target of 35 per cent affordable housing on sites providing 15 or more dwellings.

Councillors will also consider the idea of using part of the New Homes Bonus, a grant paid by central government to local councils for increased numbers of new-build homes, conversions and long-term empty homes brought back into use, to help provide more affordable housing.

All in all, we shall be bringing forward a range of ideas for a wider range of housing options with the aim to offer greater choice and access to a suitable home for people at all income levels.