Affordable Homes in an unaffordable district

Thursday, 17 November, 2022

East Hampshire is a beautiful and attractive place to live. It has tight-knit communities, breath-taking landscapes and a vibrant local economy.

And,as a result, it is one of the most unaffordable places to live in the country.

Rising house prices may be good news for home-owners but they make it increasingly difficult for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

To address this EHDC is committed to providing affordable homes, houses which can be bought at less than market value.

Our planning rules say that developers must allow a percentage of each major development to be affordable homes.

But demand is so high that to meet it every home built in East Hampshire would have to be affordable.

This imbalance is a particular problem for young people, who find themselves priced out of the communities they grow up in and feel part of.

What’s more, it is estimated that in 2040 around 40 per cent of the district’s population will be over 65.What would this mean for employers and service providers looking to fill posts in East Hampshire?

So, what can be done?

The key to the answer is realising that no one form of affordable housing solution will suit everyone. Shared equity, rent to buy and social rentsare all possible. But the solution lies in a diverse mix of different schemes in different places across the district.

The homes must cater for older people, disabled people, families, singles andcouples.They must be in all corners of the district and include as broad a variety of affordable schemes as possible.

It’s not easy to provide this breadth of choice so everyone has the home they need in the place they want to live.

We can ensure fewer homes are left unused, by enforcing the council tax premium for long term empty properties.

In Rowledge, in the north of the district, we are investing more than £547,000to provide four shared equity homes for people who can secure a mortgage but are unable to afford market-rate housing in that area.

This will be the sixth shared equity scheme the council has funded in partnership with Merlion Housing Association, bringing number of funded homes to 43.

And there are plans for more similar schemes in the pipeline.

One of the best ways to deliver more affordable homes is through our Local Plan. A consultation is launching on 21 November which will give you the chance to tell us your thoughts on affordable homes.

If you feel strongly about this issue, make sure you take part

The ultimate consequence of unaffordable homes is homelessness. Something we take very seriously at EHDC. Homelessnessdoesn’t always show itself, the number of rough sleepers in the district is always comparatively low. But what you can’t see is the people with no address of their own, relying on friends to put them up, or ‘sofa surfing’ as it is called.

We need to help these people back into accommodation, give them a front door they can call their own.

In December we are expecting to unveil ten new homelessness pods in Whitehill & Bordon. Temporary homes for those who need somewhere to stay while they get back on their feet. These pods are being constructed inside, and alongside, the former Pinewood Village Hall. It’s an incredibly innovative use of a defunct building that will bring real benefit to some of most vulnerable residents.

Affordable Housing is vitally important for a thriving district, so much so that we are preparing a strategy to guide our work in the future which will be ready in the coming weeks.