Wed, 02 Nov 2016
A TOXIC mix of soaring house prices and a lack of affordable homes is driving people away from West Berkshire.
Lee Dillon’s (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) comments came as Land Registry data revealed the average house price in the district has risen by 10 per cent in the past 12 months– from £313,717 in August 2015 to £345,097 in August 2016.
And the council’s own forecasts show that it is likely to fall short of its aim of providing 1,000 affordable homes by 2020, with just 883 expected to be delivered.
The council’s performance report, which was presented to councillors recently, shows that only 179 affordable homes have been built in the district since April 2015.
Mr Dillon says the combination of the two is pricing people out of living in West Berkshire.
He said: “It is becoming really difficult for anyone, particularly young people trying to taking their first step on the property ladder, to set up a home here and start a family.
“We do not want people going off to university and not coming back because they cannot afford to live here or families moving out of West Berkshire to other areas for the same reason.
“It seems that young families are suffering.”
There are also fears that delays to the proposed Sandleford Park application could have a huge impact on the council’s ability to meet the 1,000 target.
Developers have put in plans to build up to 2,000 homes in south Newbury – 40 per cent of which (800) would be affordable – but the application has yet to be approved due to various issues.
The council announced in June that it is putting together an ‘action plan’ in response to the affordable home crisis.
But Mr Dillon said: “More needs to be done to lobby Government to tighten planning laws. Too many times we are seeing developers claiming that it is not viable for them to provide affordable homes.
“And it seems that the Government are so keen on getting new homes built they are happy to see affordable homes washed away. I think that is wrong. There needs to be a clear balance.”
Less than 20 per cent of the 225 homes proposed to be built at Market Street in Newbury will be affordable because developer Grainger does not consider it to be viable with more.
There was also the scandal of 37 affordable homes lying empty at Parkway for three years – but that now looks set to end after a social housing provider was appointed to manage them.