It’s Catch 22 here in Shropshire. Over the years, we have built homes that are larger than average. That means that four in ten homes in the county have two or more spare bedrooms. Many older people would like to downsize but they can’t find suitable smaller housing in the villages and market towns they live in. That in turn means that growing families can’t move into bigger homes. The shortage of smaller houses means that younger people cannot afford homes near where they live and work. It also pushes up rents and prevents people getting onto the housing ladder.
The government has announced that it will allow local councils to borrow more £1 billion to build new council houses. Not a penny of this will be available to Shropshire.
This is yet another blow delivered by Westminster. Most housing developments in our county do not pay affordable housing contributions after ministers decreed that small developments should be exempt from the levee. Now it is using a statistical trick to bar us from accessing funds to build new council housing.
Shropshire needs 6,000 additional affordable houses to bring it up to the national average provision. That would all but wipe out the county’s housing waiting list. But rural areas like ours are not on the government’s radar.
Every day we hear about the housing crisis. Politicians tell us we must build more housing urgently. Yet they say next to nothing about empty homes. There are more than 600,000 empty homes in England, enough to cut the housing waiting list by half.
Here in Shropshire, there are 4,375 empty homes. That’s more than 3% of the county’s housing stock. If they were brought back into use, they could provide homes for four in five of the households on the waiting list.
More than a third of the empty homes in Shropshire have been vacant for six months or more. It’s shocking that nearly 200 council and social homes are empty.
The waiting list for affordable housing in Shropshire stood at 5,370 households last year. The council says that the housing waiting list does not include all those that need housing. It acknowledges there are households that haven’t identified their need because they are reluctant to give the information.
To address this, the council has launched the Right Home, Right Place website – https://www.righthomerightplace.co.uk/. The aim is to make it easier for people to give the council information on what housing they need and where they need it. The survey covers all types of housing, social, market and private rental.
I would urge everyone who needs housing or might soon need it to complete the online housing needs survey. This is particularly important for people in rural in the south of the county. If we don’t make our voice heard we won’t get the housing we need.
The housing association conglomerate Connexus has submitted a new application for five bungalows on the green space between Sidney Road and Charlton Rise. A previous application for five bungalows on this site was rejected by a majority at a South Planning Committee meeting a couple of months ago. The plans are different in detail but not in principle. The temporary tree protection orders on the trees on the green have expired. That means the remaining Norway Maple and other trees can be felled at will.