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Is enough being done in our region to tackle the balance of social housing?

August 9, 2018 5:00 PM
By Gary Fuller in Folkestone Herald - Talking Points

wp-content/uploads/HouseBuilding.jpgThe simple answer to this question is no. We live in a society where more and more of our money is going towards keeping a roof over our heads, where more and more people are relying on food banks. Social housing offers us both much more reasonable rents and a potential foot on the housing ladder for those unlikely to have the option via other means.

The introduction of Right to Buy, predominantly by the Thatcher Government, had enormous potential to benefit existing residents but offered no mechanism for replacing the housing stock that was lost through sales. Since then the housing market has become ever more toxic, to the point that owning a home is becoming increasingly out of reach without help from wealthy family members.

Social housing waiting lists are now so strained that families are being forced into temporary accommodation for long periods. Homes are costing on average 7.8 times annual earnings to buy. Meanwhile developers can use viability assessments to negotiate down the proportion of affordable homes they build from the normal baseline of 30%, of which social housing is but a fraction.

The local council's Core Strategy Local Plan Review document suggests that they intend to build 633 new homes a year between 2018/19 and 2036/37. Of these, 139 per year will be affordable. That's about one in five. Nearly 80% of homes will be, by inference, unaffordable. Within that 139 per year. Roughly 97 will be social rented/affordable rent. That means only three in every twenty new homes will be social housing, despite massive waiting lists.

Planning law changes also mean that social rented housing may no longer be included in the definition of affordable housing. Local councils, and the public, therefore need to demand a massive increase in the building of social housing.