The government thinks that we have a housing shortage and yet everyone in the UK that can afford to buy a house has already got one. What we do have is an affordable housing shortage which has happened for two reasons. House prices have greatly exceeded wage increases so a generation has watched in despair as house prices have spiralled out of their reach. The other reason is that in the early 1980s the Government decide to sell of council houses AND stopped councils from building any more. That has ripped away a major part of our housing fabric and it has not been replaced.
Couples requiring studios or 1 bedroom
Family requiring 2 bedrooms
Family requiring 3 bedrooms
Family requiring 4 bedrooms
Family requiring 4-5 bedrooms
Family requiring 4-6 bedrooms
Single person requiring studios or 1 bedroom
1,424 is a dreadfully high number of households to be homeless or inadequately housed in a relatively wealthy area like West Dorset. The reality is probably twice as bad. In 2015 the Local Plan noted that there were 3,000 households on the Housing Register but shortly after that, the local rule makers decided to exclude households in private rented accommodation and that was instrumental in reducing the number of households on the Register from 3,000 to around 1,000. The simple fact is that private rents are far too high for a massive number of our households to be able to afford and that is why these people were previously allowed on the Register. That reduced figure of 1,000 has steadily increased to the current 1,424 so this problem is definitely on the increase. There are signs that people in unaffordable private accommodation may be reintroduced on to the Register. Either way it looks like West Dorset probably has well over 3,000 households are either homeless or are inadequately housed or cannot afford to pay their private sector rents.
A terraced property in West Dorset can easily cost around £180,000 or more. When buying a property on a mortgage the rule of thumb for affordability is that the mortgage should be no more than 3.5 times the gross household income.
A 90% mortgage on £180k would require a deposit of £18k and a gross household income of £46k.
An 80% mortgage would require a deposit of £36k and an income of £41k. The median gross household income in West Dorset is around £26,000 and the upper quartile income is around £44,000 which means that nearly three quarters of west Dorset households cannot afford to buy a terrace house on a mortgage. Even if they can scrape together the £18,000 deposit.
In West Dorset more people die every year than are born. This is because we have so many older people, since thousands and thousands of people have moved here to retire. West Dorset has 29.4% of 65 and over. England and Wales have an average of 17.9%. In other words, West Dorset has 64% more older people than England and Wales.
Is West Dorset becoming ‘God’s Waiting Room’?
Sherborne has 72% more over 65s than the national average. Bridport and Dorchester have 71% and 35% more than the national average respectively. Lyme Regis and Beaminster have over twice as many over 65s than the national average.
The Government predicts that 1,574 more people will move into into west Dorset from other parts of the UK every year during the Plan period.
That is a total of 31,480 more people moving to West Dorset.
No wonder the District Council requires us to build over 12,000 new homes here. Think about it… we have to build these new houses before these people would be able to move in. Will they be moving here to fill tens of thousands of newly formed jobs, or will they be moving here to retire?
Watch out, the Government inspector has told the Planners to find more land for more homes. What is more he has told the planners to particularly look for land in Sherborne and in Dorchester.
Is it a coincidence that both towns previously protested at large new estates being built there and the protesters won the day?
Well, the Inspector calls again!
We have thousands of households living in private sector rented accommodation paying rents that they simply cannot afford. These people are not allowed to go on the Housing Register. There are over 1,400 households on the housing register which means that they are homeless or in unsuitable accommodation. Priority must be given to building genuinely affordable housing.
In 2014 the Strategic Housing Market Assessment for West Dorset and Weymouth and Portland was published. It concluded that 605 new homes per year would be needed in West Dorset but, astonishingly, it concluded that only eight (8) new social rented homes would be needed each year. Clearly the new homes requirement for West Dorset must be urgently re-assessed.
*Concluded by the Strategic Housing Market Assessment.
Neither local nor central government have the funds needed to develop social rented homes. However, private sector financial institutions have already recognised that investing in social and other forms of affordable housing is a sound proposition. For example, Legal & General are the country’s largest investor in infrastructure and they are making substantial investments in social rented housing. As part of a growing housing portfolio they have invested £252 million in 4,000 social rented homes with the housing Association, Places for People. Also the housing association, One Housing, has borrowed £85m to build 1,450 homes in a long-term deal with investment manager M&G Investments. The association plans to use the 35-year loan to build 1,050 homes for social and affordable rent, shared ownership homes and an additional 400 homes for market sale by 2020. The longer-term plan is to build 4,000 homes across all tenures over the next five years.
We must urgently identify private sector finance for genuinely affordable housing in West Dorset. Finance is available and currently it is the only way that we can deliver the low-cost housing we need on the scale that we need it.
It costs around £1,200 per year for heating and power in a typical home. This is a particular burden for those already struggling with housing costs. The technology is already available that can make massive reductions in domestic energy costs. Solar panel technology is developing at a rapid rate and has become affordable on new build homes. Not only that, technology like the Tesla Powerwall has become affordable. This is a sophisticated lithium battery that stores solar power generated during the day for use after dark and now costs around £5,000 in the UK. This power generating and power storing technology can be combined with very efficient insulation and airtight construction techniques to slash fuel costs. The ‘Zero Bills’ house already exists at the Building Research Establishment in Watford.