Bridport Area Neighbourhood Plan Housing Group – Response to Magna Housing decision to Sell Social Housing in West Dorset
Cllr Ros Kayes’ dismay that Magna Housing intend to sell social rented homes is understandable. Whatever Magna’s reasons, this news is difficult to reconcile with the fact that 283 households (about 1 in every 30 in the Bridport area) are on the Housing Register as being homeless or “unsuitably accommodated”. These residents are unlikely ever to be able to buy a home, they struggle to meet private rental costs, endure overcrowding and often share with others. We must all find this unacceptable.
Consequently the Bridport Area Neighbourhood Plan Housing Group strongly supports the need for more social rented housing. They have identified an across-the-board need for lower-cost open market housing at prices more in reach of locals, in preference to housing built predominantly to serve affluent second-home owners and retirees from outside the area. ‘Social rent’ for a three bedroomed home will, Magna advises, cost around £105 per week. That is affordable by local standards.
Around 1,000 new homes are currently planned for Bridport of which 250 should be a mixture of ‘social rented’ and ‘affordable rented’. However ‘Affordable’ rent is specified by the government as being up to 80% of private rent, equating to at least £150 per week for a three bedroomed ‘affordable’ home. Nationally accepted criteria show that over half the households in Bridport simply cannot afford this. It is misleading to say that rents priced at 80% of private market rents are ‘affordable’ here.
Housing Associations prefer to provide ‘affordable rented’ homes – they get a much better return on their investment and since the government does not subsidise social housing the chance of many ‘social rented’ homes being built in Bridport is slim.
Spokesmen of both local and central government keep reassuring us that ‘affordable’ housing is on its way. Yes, more housing may be on its way but affordable it isn’t, at least not to those in housing need. It is of concern that the District Council simply does not know how many new social rented properties are to be built in Bridport, having no power to dictate the number.
The sad fact is that the District Council’s 2015 Local Plan is not going to help those desperate people on the Housing Register and those suffering housing poverty. The people of Bridport need to understand this.