West Suffolk: Concern over number of affordable homes built in St Edmundsbury
THE “SHOCKINGLY low” number of affordable houses being built in west Suffolk will lead to an increase in social pain, according to a councillor.
Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reveal that only 145 affordable homes have been planned in the St Edmundsbury area between 2012 and 2015 - just 7% of the county’s 1,999 planned builds.
Green Suffolk County councillor Mark Ereira-Guyer, said social problems including homelessness would increase if immediate action is not taken. He added: “I think we all knew that in terms of social housing there was not much being built but looking at the constituency, there is hardly anything being built at all. We are in desperate need of affordable accommodation.”
Mr Ereira-Guyer, who represents the Tower division in Bury St Edmunds, said although St Edmundsbury Borough Council had committed themselves to building more over the next 20 years he doubted there would be the funds available to make them affordable.
“The problems are only going to get worse,” he added. “I mean the number of houses stated here is not going to make any dent in the problems we have around homelessness and people needing somewhere to live. This will mean more social pain for more people, more young people not being able to get housing – that’s the implication. These are shockingly low figures.”
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In October last year a report to St Edmundsbury’s overview and scrutiny committee said that families are sometimes forced to live in bed and breakfasts due to a lack of affordable homes caused by slower delivery of properties.
Mr Ereira-Guyer, who said councils should reinvest money generated by right-to-buy on “building housing people need”, passed the figures to the EADT after Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley requested the information from the Government.
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The reply from the Homes and Communities Agency said it expects 46 affordable homes to be built in St Edmundsbury in 2012-13, 49 in 2013-14 and 50 in 2014-15.
Terry Clements, St Edmundsbury Borough Council portfolio holder for Planning said: “St Edmundsbury’s policy is that 30 per cent of any new large housing residential developments must be for affordable housing. Vision 2031, the blueprint for growth in the borough, provides for up to 5900 new homes across all sectors over the next 19 years, well ahead of the figures mentioned. The delivery of these new homes depends largely on commercial house building activity. Without the private sector land, it will be almost impossible to provide anywhere near the affordable homes that the town needs.
Cllr Anne Gower, St Edmundsbury Borough Council Cabinet member for Housing said: “We are being as proactive and as responsive as possible to the housing needs register. We are doing the best we can given the changes to housing and benefits put in place by central government. St Edmundsbury doesn’t have any housing stock itself, but we work closely with housing providers to make sure that the best use is made of the housing stock available in the borough. We work closely with planners to get the best affordable housing outcomes with s106 agreements, but in this economic climate, developers are under pressure.”