Affordable housing shortage leaves North Somerset with ‘ageing population and big care bill’
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‘Fewer working-age people can afford to live in North Somerset’, a councillor has said after it was revealed the local authority is falling short of affordable housing targets.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) reports not enough affordable homes are being built in North Somerset, with the local economy suffering as a result.
Policy requires 30 per cent of homes built in the district, if part of developments of 10 homes or greater, to be allocated for affordable housing schemes like social rent or housing associations.
But experts believe a 35 per cent benchmark is required, and the IPPR found North Somerset Council fell 72 per cent short of that standard in 2016.
Only 130 of the required 457 affordable homes were built last year, and a councillor believes the shortfall is costing the district money and its ‘working-age population’.
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In October, councillors voted to accept fewer affordable homes than required for a development of 21 houses in Congresbury due to the developer’s argument its plans would not be viable otherwise.
Congresbury councillor Tom Leimdorfer then told councillors ‘you are tearing up your policies on affordable housing on small sites’.
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This week he said: “We need to move to a threshold of 35 per cent for all private development and be resolute in enforcing it. Failure to uphold even our current policy means developers are allowed to get away with dubious viability arguments.
“The result is that fewer working-age people can afford to live in the district, especially outside Weston, so we end up with an ageing population and spiralling care costs.”
A council spokesman told the Mercury it voted this month to increase the threshold to 35 per cent, and that the local authority has on average met its own affordable housing targets.
The spokesman added: “There is a substantial need for affordable housing across the West of England and the draft Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) sets out a target of 24,500 new affordable homes across the period 2016-2036.
“The plan includes a minimum of 35 per cent affordable housing on eligible sites. This differs from the current approach which has a 30 per cent affordable housing target.
“The JSP will come into force once it has been submitted and approved through independent examination.”