Home ownership is ‘out of reach’ for households on low and average incomes in South Northamptonshire, and the local council is now trying to fix the problem.
South Northamptonshire Council is set to go out for consultation on its new housing strategy for 2019-2022, and is making building more affordable homes its number one priority.
As of January this year, there were 242 households on the council’s housing register, of which half have an ‘urgent’ or ‘high priority’ need for affordable housing to rent. One-third of the households on the register are single people.
Private rents in South Northamptonshire are more expensive than all other districts in the county, so the council’s updated strategy - replacing the one that finished in 2018 - has three priorities to improve the situation for local people.
The first priority is to build affordable homes, the second priority is to allow people to lead settled lives, and the third is to develop ‘strong partnerships’ to provide housing services for that meet residents’ needs.
The foreword to the strategy reads: “It is important that we make the best use of existing housing, that empty homes are brought back into use and the right types of new housing are built in the right locations.
“By doing this we can ensure that young people can afford to stay in the area if they wish, that companies can continue to compete by attracting and retaining their workforce, and that housing is available and adaptable to meet the requirements of our ageing population.”
The evidence base on which the strategy has been put together found that of the 38,902 dwellings in South Northants - which includes Towcester and Brackley and nearby villages - 72 per cent are owner-occupied, 17 per cent are private rented and 11 per cent are social rented.
The report adds: “Despite higher incomes, the higher property prices are still less affordable than other areas in the district, being almost eight and a half times the median gross income.
“Private rental prices in the district are also more expensive than all other districts in the county. We have a very limited supply of shared accommodation, including Houses in Multiple Occupation.
“Social rent is the only truly affordable housing option for some people in our district and there is a limited supply in South Northants.”
It concludes: “Home ownership is out of reach for households on low and average incomes.”
Some of the strategies the council would adopt, if the paper is approved, would be to seek the ‘maximum amount’ of affordable housing when negotiating with developers on new schemes; supporting the delivery of new build adapted bungalows; and identifying land and property that it owns to be considered for the development of affordable homes ‘for people with a connection to South Northants’.
Although having a housing strategy is not statutory for councils, it is seen as ‘best practice’ to have one. The council hopes that the 2019-22 strategy can ‘guide and influence’ partners such as developers and registered providers.
The previous housing strategy, from 2015-18, delivered 364 new affordable homes, 203 rented properties (including 30 for social rent) and 161 shared ownership properties.
Targets for the next two years includes delivering 315 new ‘affordable’ properties in the area, the majority of which would be in Towcester and Brackley and the larger villages.
Members of South Northamptonshire Council’s cabinet are expected next week (Monday, April 8) to approve the strategy going out for a four-week public consultation from April 17 until May 15. It would then be brought back to cabinet on June 10 following the public feedback.