‘Affordable’ homes: new concerns

TARGETS for the number of affordable homes built in the Scarborough area are “unachievable” it has been claimed.

Cllr Bill Chatt, Scarborough Council’s cabinet member for housing, said that a combination a harsh economic climate, a lack of available land as well as local opposition to schemes made it difficult for the council to provide the recommended 450 affordable homes, every year, for the next five years.

Scarborough Council figures show there were a total of 250 new homes built in the borough in 2010 – but only 85 were classed as affordable.

Cllr Chatt said the targets were set by an independent agency, the North Yorkshire Strategic Housing Partnership, and 450 each year was undeliverable. He said: “It’s unachievable – in this area it just doesn’t work. You can just work with what you’ve got but we are strapped for cash. Housing is a problem we are never going to be able to deal with.”

Cllr Chatt said that, with the North York Moors national Park on one side and the North Sea on the other, there was not a lot of available land on which to build new homes. “I honestly don’t know where we are going to find somebody to come in and build,” he said.

“We will always be short and we will always be on the back foot for it – as a borough we will struggle.”

Cllr Chatt said that an added problem was that there were currently 3,500 waiting for social housing but Government subsidies for each unit had been slashed by more than 50 per cent – and people in receipt of housing benefit are also facing a cut in their benefit.

He said: “More people are going to have to share properties instead of one person in a household. That will affect single people under 35 – which means that somebody living in a flat now it could affect their rent. Housing benefit aren’t going to pay it and they are going to have to leave their accommodation and that will increase the load on homelessness.”

Cllr Chatt said that last year 58 cases were dealt with by council officers and 26 of those fell under a duty of homlessness care. He added: “We’ve said this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”

He said that the current financial situation also delayed the start of schemes: “Developers may have permission but don’t have the funds to move forward. There are some proposed units on land owned by the council and we are looking to bringing that land forward.”

Earlier this week Andrew Rowe, the council’s housing manager, criticised the target of 450 affordable homes and said: “We’ve been working with rural communities to try and develop small scale affordable housing developments across the borough and have a number of schemes planned.

“But a major obstacle is every single housing development we do propose, whether on a green field or urban site, we come up against a lot of opposition from local residents.”

The housing partnership which set the targets includes seven local authority housing departments across North Yorkshire and the report hopes to make the area “an inclusive place where everyone can have access to decent affordable homes”.