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Letter: The problem with 'affordable' housing



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SIR – Last week’s letters, “Housing not at all affordable” and “Stand up to the developers”, highlighted a critical social issue here in the Forest: can people who are born here afford to build a life here? The contributors seemed doubtful, and sadly I agree.

A big part of the problem is that the term ‘affordable housing’ has no legally enforceable definition. The government’s broad suggestions (80% of market rent, and mortgage payments around 25% of gross family income) rarely result in housing that is, actually, affordable to many.

Plus, developers can stretch these ‘suggestions’ as much as they like and face no real consequences. Developers are playing with town planners because they know they can. Meanwhile, starter homes recede beyond the reach of many more local people.

But maybe there is much to feel positive about. There might be plenty we can do about this if we really want to.

How about each authority sets a legally enforceable price for affordable homes in their area? And creates a ‘jury duty’ style system in which members of the public serve at each planning meeting, to give a stronger voice for the real needs of the community?

And if no developers are willing to build truly affordable housing under these conditions, then planning permission can be offered to not-for-profit ‘co-operatives’ of local tradespeople to do the job instead?

Might our housing crisis really be a failure of our own willingness to press for meaningful change? NFDC has an obligation to build more than 10,000 new homes, with 35-50% being affordable. What these homes end up looking like could depend on how much our community stands up for what it needs.

Jon Bray,

Lymington



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