Ryeview – August 2007

Tinkering at the edges of affordable housing

John Clark writes…

First published: August 2007(2) – Gazette & Herald

There is a shortage of affordable housing in Britain. Ryedale is one of the most unaffordable areas within Britain. Very little is being done in the UK, even less in Ryedale. I was delighted when RDC commissioned a ‘2006 Housing Needs Assessment’. This document surveys, measures and analyses housing in Ryedale, affordability and the need for future housing. Its hundred pages includes the following:

  • The need for affordable housing in Ryedale is 292 units per year
  • Only a handful of new households (6 in 1000) can afford to buy at the ‘market price’.
  • Only 16 in 1000 new households can afford to rent in the private sector

This means that 280 plus new households who need housing in Ryedale each year will be forced to move out of Ryedale. RDC’s own yearly analysis shows that in the last 2 years only 23 Affordable houses have been completed.

What is even more frightening is that nothing appears to be planned to halt the ‘crisis’; a bit of tinkering here and there but no ‘solution’. In fact the ‘blue print’ for Ryedale, the Local Development Framework (LDF), plans for 200 houses per year in Ryedale. For developments of 15 or more, RDC seeks for 35% to be ‘affordable’. As a result, less than 70 affordable homes per year i.e. even if the plan works, 200 plus households will be forced out of Ryedale. The consultation on the LDF states ‘The Council cannot insist that all new homes in the District should be affordable’ Why not? Who says?

If the need for Ryedale is for Affordable homes, why can we not plan for Affordable homes?

The Liberals suggested this on RDC. The Liberal Democrat leader said it would ‘drive the developers out of Ryedale’. Now the choice is simple. Who do we drive out of Ryedale? The people who need the homes or the developers?

Just to keep the political balance, the Tory Chair of the Yorkshire Housing Association said making all Ryedale housing affordable would mean that Ryedale would become only ‘social housing’. No, it would mean that those who need housing would be housed. Equally, if the chair of Yorkshire Housing doesn’t support social housing, maybe he ought to consider his position.

So what is the solution? Housing must be treated as what it is – a need, not a way of making money. The LDF should be a plan to produce all 200 houses per year as affordable. Those who want to live in the present housing stock will of course still be free to buy. What we should not be doing is building more unaffordable housing. If the developers left Ryedale, RDC could buy the land at a fair price. Houses could be built at cost. My calculations are that an ecofriendly, affordable house could be built for under £100,000. These could be built for those local people who have a housing need.

The result would be that Ryedale people could stay in Ryedale. Property Developers would have to go elsewhere to abuse the population. Maybe they could build on the vast land bank with planning permission that they already own.

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