Meeting an ever-increasing demand for housing
As house prices continue to rise, providing housing that is affordable is becoming even more critical with councils playing a huge role in ensuring that there are enough homes in their areas to meet an ever-increasing demand for good quality, affordable homes.
Affordable housing has always been an emotive subject and we often hear people say that ‘not enough is being done’, and ‘what is affordable?’
Councils, including East Devon District Council, have a lack of land to develop and insufficient funding to build the new homes required to meet the needs identified.
However, the district council has been working hard to overcome these obstacles.
Over the past five years more than 1,270 affordable homes have been completed in East Devon, against a target of around 500 homes. Traditionally, the greater proportion of these homes are provided by developers when building their developments which is often a planning condition when planning permission is granted. These homes are typically acquired by our housing association partners who rent them at affordable rents. Some are sold for shared ownership where the purchaser part buys, part rents.
In the recent past, the council has undertaken its own build programme and it continues to add property to its housing stock of around 4,200 homes by purchasing property using receipts from council house sales (under the Right to Buy) and other sources. To date, the council remains on target to add a further fifty properties to its housing stock by the end of next year.
Housing need figures for East Devon show a clear need for smaller single person accommodation. In response to this the council recently completed a very ambitious housing project, to purchase a large property, convert it and use it as a shared house.
This is a first for the council and 18 months ago residents started to move into the six bedroom home in Exmouth. Careful consideration was given to the design and management of the property which includes private en-suites for all residents, a shared purpose built kitchen, utility room and dining room. It was retro fitted to an extremely high insulation standard, to help ensure that the running costs for the residents were as low as possible. It’s been a great success and the council hopes to deliver similar properties when the opportunity arises.
Looking to the future, the council is taking an innovative step towards setting up its own local housing company by using its wealth of experience as one of the much reduced number of councils in the country with its own housing stock.
The company, which is wholly owned by the council, will play a significant role in delivering new homes to the district’s growing population and will be financed by the council. Any profits would come back to the council.
Key priorities for the new company will be to improve the quality of rented accommodation across the district, provide housing for sale and shared ownership, and set standards for good housing design and management in the local housing market.
Among other the benefits would be the opportunity to buy and let existing homes, including acquiring properties from developers, with the possibility of developing council-owned land or land bought through the open market. The company is being run as a business by a board of directors.
Find out more about East Devon District Council’s housing service.