‘Young people can’t afford to live here’

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THE vexed issue of affordable housing in the Stratford-on-Avon district was highlighted this week with one local councillor arguing that young people could no longer afford to live in the area.

District councillor Cllr Jason Fojtik (Lab, Clopton) has pointed out that the authority’s own housing strategy document revealed the district was facing a shortfall of 233 affordable homes every year.

In a question to the council leader, Cllr Chris Saint (Cons, Shipston North), Cllr Fojtik said: “We already have an older than average population. One reason for this is that young people are moving out of the Stratford district — and it is quite easy to see why.

“According to the council’s own figures in 2014 the average house price was £293,000 and private rents were averaging £9,800 per year. Young people can no longer afford to live here.

“Therefore will the leader guarantee that any development in the district will abide by the council’s own policy by providing 35 per cent of new homes to be affordable?”

Cllr Saint responded: “The policy is clear in requiring that, unless credible site specific evidence of viability indicates otherwise, all developments at or above the threshold level will provide 35 per cent of the homes as affordable homes.

“The implementation of this policy will be dealt with via individual planning applications that will be determined by the planning committees, making it impossible for me as leader to provide the specific guarantee sought. However, I am confident that the planning committees will ensure that the policy is applied consistently.”

In a separate question to Cllr Saint, Cllr Fojtik said no real solutions were being offered to deal with “this terrible shortfall” of 233 affordable homes a year.

“Will the leader adopt a more innovative housing policy by developing housing itself on any land that it owns?” asked Cllr Fojtik.

“Will the leader look at building council homes which will go some way to solving the acute housing crisis we have in the district?”

Cllr Saint replied: “The questions reveal a misunderstanding of the current position. The council’s core strategy envisages that over the plan period [2011-2031] around 250 affordable homes per annum will be built as a result of various forms of development.”

He said that completions since 2011 had averaged around 160 a year, but this reflected the lower level of overall housebuilding activity in the years 2011 to 2014.

“Completions rose to 215 in 2014-2015 and are expected to exceed 250 this year,” said Cllr Saint.

“There are already substantial numbers of affordable homes in the pipeline of committed developments.

“If these approved schemes are implemented as currently anticipated it is estimated that over 2,140 further affordable homes will be built over the period 2016-2021, an average of more than 420 each year.”

Cllr Peter Barnes (Ind, Welford) highlighted the specific problem of lack of affordable housing in rural areas within the district and his concerns were echoed by Cllr Justin Kerridge (Cons, Studley with Mappleborough Green).

Cllr Kate Rolfe (Lib Dem, Tiddington) asked how many homes in the district had been sold under Right to Buy legislation.

The portfolio holder for enterprise, housing and revenues, Cllr Dave Riches (Cons, Long Itchington and Stockton), told Cllr Rolfe that 800 properties had been sold since October 1996 when the council transferred its entire housing stock to the South Warwickshire Housing Association.

Meanwhile, Warwickshire Rural Housing Association announced this week that it was planning to provide 37 affordable homes in the county by 2018.

It said a planning application had been submitted for a development of five homes for affordable rent in Long Compton, along with four properties for local market sale.

Further development plans for 2016 also included the villages of Broom, Great Alne, Wootton Wawen and Stretton-on-Fosse.

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