Affordable homes - a deepening crisis

A YOUNG couple's plight has highlighted the worsening affordable housing crisis afflicting towns and villages across Suffolk.Michaela Wood and Carl Phair, who are getting married in July, fear they will have to leave their home village of Clopton, near Woodbridge, because of a lack of affordable housing.

A YOUNG couple's plight has highlighted the worsening affordable housing crisis afflicting towns and villages across Suffolk.

Michaela Wood and Carl Phair, who are getting married in July, fear they will have to leave their home village of Clopton, near Woodbridge, because of a lack of affordable housing.

They are likely to begin married life living with Miss Wood's parents in the village after being rejected for six new homes built in Clopton by a housing association.

Their situation mirrors that of many others across Suffolk, where just 351 affordable homes have been built in the past year, against a population of 669,000.


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Miss Wood, 26, told of her disillusionment after learning she and Mr Phair, 22, did not qualify for any of the new homes built in the village where her family has lived for more than 50 years.

"It's very frustrating and very disappointing - I want to live near my family and it's ideal for my job," said the home carer.

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"We can't afford to buy a house in Clopton as it is out of our price range and we can't really afford to rent privately here either.

"The new houses built by the housing association were only for families and we didn't stand a chance of getting one."

The couple live on the village's Rouse Hall Estate with Miss Wood's parents, Jennieand Ronnie, and her brother Scott, 18.

"I've been told that if things are unbearable at home, I can go on the homeless list, but we don't want to just be put into bed and breakfast," said Miss Wood, who has been on a housing association waiting list for a year.

Her mother, 50, has already seen her eldest daughter, Lorraine, 33, wait for nine years to move into a one-bedroom property in Clopton - and fears history is repeating itself.

"I just hope Michaela isn't waiting for nine years - it's not the way a couple should be starting married life," said Mrs Wood, who has lived in Clopton all her life and whose parents still live in the village, which has a population of about 350.

"It's not ideal to have five adults, including a couple, in the same house. But it does not look like they have a choice."

The parish council carried out a housing survey three years ago, which revealed six single people and two couples would require somewhere to live in the village within five years.

Suffolk Heritage Housing Association (SHHA) is about to hand over keys to four new three-bedroom houses and two bungalows on the Rouse Hall Estate - but Mrs Wood said it had not addressed the need.

"I feel very frustrated, angry and misled by it. I thought we would get what the survey showed people in Clopton wanted," she said.

"There is nothing provided for couples and if you are not over 60, disabled or pregnant, you haven't got a hope."

Mrs Wood, a teaching assistant, added: "Michaela would have to have a family to be considered at all but she is not likely to have just yet - it's a real Catch 22 situation."

Caroline Smith, the SHHA's operations director, said it had to give top priority to families who were statutorily homeless, elderly people and the disabled.

"In terms of allocating, we have to make the best use of what we can build, and families are a priority for us," she said.

"We would love to help everybody but sometimes we have to prioritise - we have to cater for people with statutory needs such as families with children. To offer a three-bedroom house to a couple would not be best use."

She said five of the six new rented homes in Clopton had gone to local people and added the housing association would consider a couple as tenants in a two-bedroom bungalow if there were no elderly or disabled people who required the property.

Meanwhile, East Anglia's lack of affordable housing could devastate the region's economy, a leading business expert warned.

Prof Richard Scase was speaking at the Delivering Sustainable Communities in the East conference at Lynford Hall, near Thetford organised by the National Housing Federation (NHF) East of England, Flagship Housing Group and the Havebury Housing Partnership.

Prof Scase said that, despite people being the happiest living in the East of England, in terms of quality of life and amenities, the region's reputation could get rapidly destroyed in the next 10 years.

Detrimental factors included the off-shoring of jobs to other countries and skills shortages, which will affect the provision of public services and the rural economy, and lack of affordable housing.

"I can see us returning to a situation I knew 40 years ago, with young people living in one of the parental homes until affordable housing comes available," he said.

The event yesterdayfollowed research from the NHF revealing a housing market under severe strain - with the affordability and supply crisis in the region showing no sign of abating.

The organisation, which represents 163 housing associations in the east, has published a booklet, iN The Eastshowing that key workers are being priced out of the market in what is the fastest-growing region in the country.

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