Row over affordable homes

September 03 2018
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THE first tenants have started to move into a new housing development Spring Acres in Longwell Green, created as part of a partnership between South Gloucestershire Council and Sovereign Housing.

One of the new residents who received the keys to their new home was Samantha Burge, who moved into her new three-bedroom home with her young family. Samantha said: "We’ve somewhere stable to live at long last. The girls and Albie have their own rooms. It means we don’t have to worry about moving every six months. Albie has had each birthday in a different house until now. Here I can open the door and just let him play in the garden - we’ve even got him a paddling pool!"

A row has broken out after South Gloucestershire Council congratulated itself on the number of affordable homes built in the district over the past year.

The Conservative-run council sent out a press release saying 368 affordable houses - a record high - had been constructed across the district. 

This included 117 in Emersons Green, 71 in Filton, 43 in Thornbury and 20 in Yate, with a total of 45 in more rural locations including Coalpit Heath, Frampton Cotterell, Charfield and Cromhall.

But a leading Labour councillor has criticised the authority for its "self-congratulatory" news, saying the figure goes nowhere near to addressing the current housing crisis.

Cllr Martin Farmer, who leads for the Labour Group on housing issues, said: "The Labour group welcomes the recent news that 368 new homes have been built in South Gloucestershire over the past year, as these are much needed. However, with the housing register currently standing at over 3,700 applications, this number of affordable houses is pitifully small in addressing the housing crisis we face.  

"In its annual report to tenants, Merlin Housing Society has promised to build 300 new homes during 2018/19 across the whole of the West of England.  At this rate - without any new applicants - it will be the best part of a decade before the housing register is reduced to a reasonable level.

"With average house prices at £255,000 here in South Gloucestershire - an increase of over six per cent on the previous year - and a decrease in properties in the private rented sector, local families and young people are finding it increasingly difficult to find homes that they can afford to live in."  

Labour councillors says they have continually called on the council to support housing associations to acquire sites to build more homes.  

"Whilst I welcome any new homes, the council must not be too self-congratulatory as the housing challenges far outweigh its recent achievements," Cllr Farmer said.

In the council's press release, Conservative councillor Erica Williams, cabinet member responsible for housing delivery, said: "This is great news for people who need an extra helping hand to rent or part-own their first home.

"The council works with the ‘HomesWest’ housing association partnership and with Homes England, developers and house builders to provide these homes either for social and affordable rent or shared ownership.

"As a local authority area where average house prices are above the national average at £250,000, having access to suitable housing is directly related to preventing homelessness and is vital to addressing other housing related support and social welfare issues.

"With new schemes in the pipeline, I’m confident that next year the number of completions will continue to rise so that more people will benefit from owning or renting their own home."

* Housing crisis: see this month's letters page