Understanding the term 'affordable housing' is vital

First published in Postbag

AFFORDABLE housing is a term which is often heard in discussions around planning and planning committees.

It greatly concerns me, as Wiltshire Council’s portfolio holder responsible for social housing in Wiltshire, that it is often used out of context.

It is often assumed by both councillors and members of the public that any one or two bedroom house is affordable because it is small.

That is not the case.

Affordable housing, as defined by the latest guidance in 2011, is simplistically “subsidised housing in the form of social rent or shared ownership”.

Council housing and most housing provided by housing associations is affordable; they are rented out to people who have a defined need of housing at about 80 per cent of market rent.

There are also shared ownership schemes designed to help people get onto the property ladder, which are defined as affordable.

It is entirely possible for a five bedroom house to be ‘affordable’ if it is managed by the council or a housing association.

The people who qualify for social housing are also quite tightly defined under the council housing allocations policy, which was updated last year.

They are people who have a determined housing need (not just a desire to be in affordable housing).

At the moment in Wiltshire (based on the last data I have) there were 10,273 people in need of social affordable housing.

We have a target in our Core Strategy to provide 40 per cent affordable housing on all new developments of more than 15 dwellings and 25 per cent on all developments of between five and 14 dwellings.

It is worth noting that the 40 per cent figure is currently being reviewed by the inspector looking at the Core Strategy as there are concerns it is too high.

With 10,273 people to house I would argue it is too low.

On smaller developments a contribution towards affordable housing is required.

Simply building one and two bedroom houses does not meet this requirement.

Affordable houses need to be sold to housing associations or the council for social rent, or through shared equity schemes, to help meet our need for housing. I think it is vital that everyone involved in the process understands what affordable housing really is and how it works if we are ever to start building enough new affordable houses to deal with our current waiting lists.

Richard Clewer, Wiltshire councillor, St Paul's Ward, Salisbury

Comments (6)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

2:33am Fri 7 Feb 14

IanMcL says...

"On smaller developments a contribution towards affordable housing is required"

A good letter Richard.

Sadly, all too often, a developer is able to somehow demonstrate that the economics of a housing site means that they cannot 'afford' to pay the Social Housing contribution.

This can even apply to a rich person with a large house and garden, who sells his house and half the garden and then builds an extra house of the land kept for himself.

How such a person can be deemed unable to afford to make a contribution to affordable housing for others, is beyond me...and many others.

Perhaps Mr Pickles should sort out his formulas to help ordinary people and not just developers and rich folk out to avoid a fair payment to help others.
"On smaller developments a contribution towards affordable housing is required" A good letter Richard. Sadly, all too often, a developer is able to somehow demonstrate that the economics of a housing site means that they cannot 'afford' to pay the Social Housing contribution. This can even apply to a rich person with a large house and garden, who sells his house and half the garden and then builds an extra house of the land kept for himself. How such a person can be deemed unable to afford to make a contribution to affordable housing for others, is beyond me...and many others. Perhaps Mr Pickles should sort out his formulas to help ordinary people and not just developers and rich folk out to avoid a fair payment to help others. IanMcL
  • Score: 7

5:43am Fri 7 Feb 14

karlmarx says...

Council house waiting lists slashed with a sweep of a pen


Behind the extraordinary collapse in waiting lists is not a sudden surge in the supply of council homes. Instead, local authorities are writing to applicants telling them that they no longer stand a chance of obtaining a home from the council unless they meet new local criteria.

At the end of 2013, the government gave councils statutory guidance on waiting lists, making it clear that it believed they should be looking at applicants' links with an area. The guidance said: "The Secretary of State believes that including a residency requirement is appropriate and strongly encourages all housing authorities to adopt such an approach. The Secretary of State believes that a reasonable period of residency would be at least two years."

The housing minister, Kris Hopkins, told the Guardian that the new guidance was "to ensure that people in need of social housing with a long-standing connection to the area, or who have served in the armed forces, are prioritised".

The move has been contested by the Local Government Association, while housing charity Shelter says that decisions to restrict lists underline the need for more homes. "There are any number of reasons why you might need a council home," says Roger Harding, Shelter's director of communications. "It could be a disability leaving you unable to work, or high private rents outstripping your wages. The fact that councils need to choose between people who typically all have fair reasons for being on the waiting list, highlights the urgent need to build more affordable homes."


Magic! Smoke and mirrors at its best.
Council house waiting lists slashed with a sweep of a pen Behind the extraordinary collapse in waiting lists is not a sudden surge in the supply of council homes. Instead, local authorities are writing to applicants telling them that they no longer stand a chance of obtaining a home from the council unless they meet new local criteria. At the end of 2013, the government gave councils statutory guidance on waiting lists, making it clear that it believed they should be looking at applicants' links with an area. The guidance said: "The Secretary of State believes that including a residency requirement is appropriate and strongly encourages all housing authorities to adopt such an approach. The Secretary of State believes that a reasonable period of residency would be at least two years." The housing minister, Kris Hopkins, told the Guardian that the new guidance was "to ensure that people in need of social housing with a long-standing connection to the area, or who have served in the armed forces, are prioritised". The move has been contested by the Local Government Association, while housing charity Shelter says that decisions to restrict lists underline the need for more homes. "There are any number of reasons why you might need a council home," says Roger Harding, Shelter's director of communications. "It could be a disability leaving you unable to work, or high private rents outstripping your wages. The fact that councils need to choose between people who typically all have fair reasons for being on the waiting list, highlights the urgent need to build more affordable homes." Magic! Smoke and mirrors at its best. karlmarx
  • Score: 4

7:24am Sat 8 Feb 14

karlmarx says...

Understanding mathematics is vital but unfortunately there are some members of the council who fail to understand the significance of maths and, how the results can be influenced by changing the parameters of equations.

From the Wiltshire Council website again, this time in 2010.

I quote:
"Therefore, it is no surprise that we have a waiting list of 16,000+ of which over a quarter are in the highest need category"
And
"Our ambition is to enable the development of 450 affordable homes each year. Our PFI investment is primarily the provision of council land, enabling between 250 and 350 new affordable homes to rent."

So let's do the maths and being generous let's use the best figure of 450 homes per year as part of the equation.

So we have a waiting list of 16,000+ in 2010 and 4 years of 450 homes

4 X 450 = 1,800 homes
16,000 - 1,800 = 14,200 still on the waiting list 4 years later

But wait...

"At the moment in Wiltshire (based on the last data I have) there were 10,273 people in need of social affordable housing."

It now isn't 14,200, it's 10,273.

3,927 difference?

I rechecked again using a different calculator but the 'error' of 3,927 remained the same.

So where are these 3,927 people? Have they vanished? Has there been a social housing estate built in secret that could house 3,927 people?

Which is why I put forward the suggestion that somehow these people have been 'housed' by using the smoke and mirrors method of manipulating numbers. After all, they can't have disappeared off of the face of the Earth can they?
Understanding mathematics is vital but unfortunately there are some members of the council who fail to understand the significance of maths and, how the results can be influenced by changing the parameters of equations. From the Wiltshire Council website again, this time in 2010. I quote: "Therefore, it is no surprise that we have a waiting list of 16,000+ of which over a quarter are in the highest need category" And "Our ambition is to enable the development of 450 affordable homes each year. Our PFI investment is primarily the provision of council land, enabling between 250 and 350 new affordable homes to rent." So let's do the maths and being generous let's use the best figure of 450 homes per year as part of the equation. So we have a waiting list of 16,000+ in 2010 and 4 years of 450 homes 4 X 450 = 1,800 homes 16,000 - 1,800 = 14,200 still on the waiting list 4 years later But wait... "At the moment in Wiltshire (based on the last data I have) there were 10,273 people in need of social affordable housing." It now isn't 14,200, it's 10,273. 3,927 difference? I rechecked again using a different calculator but the 'error' of 3,927 remained the same. So where are these 3,927 people? Have they vanished? Has there been a social housing estate built in secret that could house 3,927 people? Which is why I put forward the suggestion that somehow these people have been 'housed' by using the smoke and mirrors method of manipulating numbers. After all, they can't have disappeared off of the face of the Earth can they? karlmarx
  • Score: 2

7:36am Sat 8 Feb 14

karlmarx says...

Mathematics is simplistically defined as...

mathematics
maθ(ə)ˈmatɪks/
noun
1.
the abstract science of number, quantity, and space, either as abstract concepts ( pure mathematics ), or as applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering ( applied mathematics ).

Origin

late 16th century: plural of obsolete mathematic 'mathematics', from Old French mathematique, from Latin (ars) mathematica 'mathematical (art)', from Greek mathēmatikē (tekhnē), from the base of manthanein 'learn'.
Mathematics is simplistically defined as... mathematics maθ(ə)ˈmatɪks/ noun 1. the abstract science of number, quantity, and space, either as abstract concepts ( pure mathematics ), or as applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering ( applied mathematics ). Origin late 16th century: plural of obsolete mathematic 'mathematics', from Old French mathematique, from Latin (ars) mathematica 'mathematical (art)', from Greek mathēmatikē (tekhnē), from the base of manthanein 'learn'. karlmarx
  • Score: 5

7:45am Sat 8 Feb 14

karlmarx says...

It's not just local councillors who struggle with maths. On a grander scale the current government also have difficulties in getting their outcomes to match up with the actual figures. Let's take a look at one of their howlers...

'we're reducing Britains debts'

Reality:

This government have now borrowed more in 3 years than Labour did over 13 years!
The Coalition has now borrowed more than Labour did – and took a decade less to do it. Between May 1997 and April 2010 Labour borrowed £429.975 billion. Since May 2010, this Government has now borrowed £430.072 billion.
So if we extrapolate these figures over another ten years, well you get the picture.
It's not just local councillors who struggle with maths. On a grander scale the current government also have difficulties in getting their outcomes to match up with the actual figures. Let's take a look at one of their howlers... 'we're reducing Britains debts' Reality: This government have now borrowed more in 3 years than Labour did over 13 years! The Coalition has now borrowed more than Labour did – and took a decade less to do it. Between May 1997 and April 2010 Labour borrowed £429.975 billion. Since May 2010, this Government has now borrowed £430.072 billion. So if we extrapolate these figures over another ten years, well you get the picture. karlmarx
  • Score: 2

8:59pm Wed 12 Feb 14

brasstacks says...

I would respectfully suggest that Richard Clewer, "portfolio holder responsible for social housing in wiltshire" goes BACK to school.....
The Funding that is coming and has come into Wiltshire for Housing has been for Affordable Homes, of which a percentage HAVE to be Homes for Social Rent only.....as far as I am aware, this is a Requirement of ANY Planning Application and Regs ...
Wilts Council get HUGE Funding from Government to build "Affordable Homes" and these are for anyone who can get a Mortgage...
Approx 25% ONLY of every "new build development" in Wiltshire are Social Rent only Homes for those who are on the Wilts Housing Register "Bidding Lottery"........
Wilts Council HAS become a glorified Real Estate Agent and, for anyone with any doubts, log onto their Homes 4 Wiltshire Web Site and look at "new developments" !!??......

There are very few Westminster MP\s who actually know what "Affordable Homes" are and perhaps if they did, they would soon learn that the dosh they are dishing out to Councils like Wiltshire, are ONLY building 25% of new homes as Social Homes for Rent only......

This IS why there are so many people on Housing Registers.....

Perhaps Richard Clewer would like to kindly Formally confirm to us all what the Conservative Cabinet have done with the £50 MILLION that they were Awarded last year for "planning and building new homes" ??...
I would respectfully suggest that Richard Clewer, "portfolio holder responsible for social housing in wiltshire" goes BACK to school..... The Funding that is coming and has come into Wiltshire for Housing has been for Affordable Homes, of which a percentage HAVE to be Homes for Social Rent only.....as far as I am aware, this is a Requirement of ANY Planning Application and Regs ... Wilts Council get HUGE Funding from Government to build "Affordable Homes" and these are for anyone who can get a Mortgage... Approx 25% ONLY of every "new build development" in Wiltshire are Social Rent only Homes for those who are on the Wilts Housing Register "Bidding Lottery"........ Wilts Council HAS become a glorified Real Estate Agent and, for anyone with any doubts, log onto their Homes 4 Wiltshire Web Site and look at "new developments" !!??...... There are very few Westminster MP\s who actually know what "Affordable Homes" are and perhaps if they did, they would soon learn that the dosh they are dishing out to Councils like Wiltshire, are ONLY building 25% of new homes as Social Homes for Rent only...... This IS why there are so many people on Housing Registers..... Perhaps Richard Clewer would like to kindly Formally confirm to us all what the Conservative Cabinet have done with the £50 MILLION that they were Awarded last year for "planning and building new homes" ??... brasstacks
  • Score: 2

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree