Ending the housing crisis in a generation

Daventry's mayor Ron Fox and DDC chairman Catherine Lomax with representatives from DDH ahead of their rally in London. NNL-150319-115049001
Daventry's mayor Ron Fox and DDC chairman Catherine Lomax with representatives from DDH ahead of their rally in London. NNL-150319-115049001

More than 2000 protesters armed with brightly coloured placards descended on Westminster last month in an attempt to get the shortage of affordable housing higher up the election agenda.

The ‘Homes for Britain’ campaign seeks to highlight the fact that local housing markets across the United Kingdom have reached a crisis point.

“Housing is such a key, fundamental rock in ensuring a safe and healthy society,

Hayley Davies

Demand is outstripping supply and salaries have failed to keep up with the house price boom, making it ever more difficult for first time buyers to get a foot on the housing ladder.

But the true victim of this struggle is the younger generation, with many young people forced to pay more in rent each week than an average mortgage, according to the Government’s English Housing Survey.

Data released by the National Housing Federation as part of its ‘Home Truths’ report paints a worrying view about the situation within Daventry district.

The mean house price in 2013 stood at £232,063, second only in the county to South Northamptonshire at £260,777, while the mean private sector rental rate stood at £662 per month, compared to the county’s average of £590.

More astounding is the fact that 23.9 per cent of all Housing Benefit claimants in the district were in employment as of May last year.

Helen Howson, manager at Daventry Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said the organisation regularly helps people with a variety of housing issues, and despite Daventry’s relative prosperity and high employment many of the poorest members of society are facing serious problems getting access to affordable housing.

“For people aged 16 to 24, and people not having savings, it very is difficult. We also see some landlords are wary of tenants in receipt of housing benefits”.

Any hopes of new measures to help people get into affordable housing in George Osborne’s 2015 budget were dashed, with only the Help to Buy ISA offering homeowners a leg up in scraping together a deposit up to £3,000 and doing nothing to address the under supply of homes.

The ‘Homes for Britain’ campaign calls for meatier policy changes to tackle the problem. It is supported by Daventry and District Housing (DDH) and its parent company, Futures Housing Group (FGH), a provider of 9,000 homes in Derbyshire and Northamptonshire.

Hayley Davies, executive director of DDH, said: “Futures Housing Group wants to lend its support to lend a voice to the national campaign to end the housing crisis within a generation.”

“Housing is such a key, fundamental rock in ensuring a safe and healthy society, and in the next 20 years 380,000 homes need to be built to meet demand. Unaffordable house prices and deposits that are unachievable have meant that in the past five years there has been a 15 per cent increase in people aged between 24 and 44-years-old either staying at home with parents or being forced into the private rental market.

“By continuing to work in partnership with local authorities like Daventry District Council we hope to provide an affordable alternative and also work towards creating more homes for people in the area.”

As part of its campaign, FHG has launched a manifesto in which it calls for an end to ‘Right to Buy’ to protect in demand social rental stock, increasing the amount of grant funding available for social housing and more to be done to end stigma attached to social housing tenants.

The under-delivery of homes is a key issue in Daventry district. According to housing charity Shelter, 250,000 new homes must be built in the UK each year to meet demand. Over the next 20 years 385,000 new households are expected to be needed in the East Midlands.

At current building rates that would leave a shortfall of 220,000 homes by 2031.

Developers will play a role in meeting housing demand, but ultimately it is up to central Government to encourage more building at affordable rates, and local authorities like Daventry District Council (DDC) to ensure they are meeting the requirement for a five-year housing supply set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

They are required to, on a rolling basis, judge the number of houses needed in the area in the coming years, and identify potential sites for them to be built on. They must then judge how many of the homes are ‘deliverable’ within the next five years and ensure they can demonstrate to a planning inspector they have enough sites lined up.

Last week the Gusher reported how DDC has increased the requirement of its housing bank by 20 percent to six years after under-delivering on homes.

This puts the council in a weaker position when it chooses to oppose development in areas it might not think are the most suitable.

In recent months several developments rejected by the council have been overturned on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate for this reason.

But for Kate Warburton, external affairs manager for the National Housing Federation, even a demonstrable six-year housing supply would not resolve the problem in the district. She said: “This is not a recent phenomenon. Even if you started to build now you would have a massive backlog and the policies have not been there to encourage building.”

“Building can’t be all down to developers .”