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Understanding the term 'affordable housing' is vital
12:13pm Thursday 6th February 2014 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
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