• Housing

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    10 March 2017

    In the South West one of the most pressing issues is affordable housing and one of the greatest pleasures I have had as a local MP has been to support and visit affordable housing schemes in the constituency. At the heart of rural communities in towns and villages such as Upton Pyne, Sandford, Buckfastleigh and Lapford I have seen first-hand the quality of local new affordable housing and have especially enjoyed meeting the new owners and tenants who, often with young children are able to remain within their community. Local families are especially important providing demand for key services not least our many small village schools. The approaches typically on offer include shared equity (in which a part ownership of the property is provided on day one often with the ability to buy an increasing share through time) and affordable rent at below market rates. Some local communities have worked together and placed land into a Community Land Trust which, through associated covenants have allowed the properties built to be provided to local people who meet strict criteria such as having lived or worked in the area for a significant time. With high property values in the South West and relatively low average wages, for many, finding a decent place to live can be a challenge. The more promising news is that many local councils are managing to deliver significantly more housing completions than 5 years ago. Whilst real progress is being made there is still more to be done. At the national level in 2010 house building was at its lowest rate since the 1920s and between 2005 and 2010 the number on social housing waiting lists doubled with the number of homes available for social rent falling by 420,000. Investment in housing is now on the increase and we are rolling out the largest affordable housing programme in 40 years - we have announced £8 billion to deliver over 400,000 affordable starts by 2021. In addition the government has recently published a Housing White Paper setting out new proposals on how we can further turbo charge the building of vital new homes. Currently 40% of local authorities do not have an up-to-date plan that meets the projected levels of housing growth in their local area and the White Paper sets out clear proposals as to how this issue will be resolved. Action is also proposed on diversifying the house building industry – currently just 10 companies build 60% of all new homes and we will invest £3 billion in a Home Building Fund to encourage smaller, local builders to become engaged. To help tackle land banking, developers will be required to provide information to local authorities on their pace of delivery of new housing. Housing is one of the many challenges facing our local communities and I will continue to be fully engaged with this issue both locally and in Westminster. More from Mel at