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Letter: There Is An Urgent Housing Need In Guildford

Published on: 17 Jun, 2016
Updated on: 17 Jun, 2016

Guildford Housing House NumberBy Caroline Reeves

Lib Dem ward councillor for Friary & St Nicolas

I have seen and heard comments that we [Guildford Borough Council], as an authority, are not filling places in some of the town centre residential developments, in particular the Barratt’s site in Walnut Tree Close, and implying that we therefore don’t have an urgent need for housing.

There are reasons why these newly built flats are taking time to fill.

Firstly, it is normal to phase the letting of properties in new developments simply for logistical reasons. There are 20 rented one bedroom flats in the development that are classified as “affordable” and let at what is referred to as “affordable rents”.

Affordable rents are normally 80% of a market rent or may be set at the equivalent Local Housing Allowance rate (Housing Benefit rate) if this is lower, which means the rents are currently some 40% higher than equivalent town centre council owned one-bedroomed flats.

The term “affordable” is a misrepresentation. Although lower than the market rent, these flats are beyond the reach of many with a regular but not highly paid job.

Additionally, new welfare reforms also affect younger single people and have made these flats unsuitable for those that will be under the age of 35 on April 1st 2018, as, after that date, any new tenants will only be entitled to less than 50% of the housing benefit than they can claim at present.

Given that over half of our single housing applicants are under 35, they would not be able to afford to live at this development.

The affordability issue means all those that have expressed interest in the flats have been subject to financial assessments to ensure that they can afford the rents and council tax as well as meet their day to day living expenses without getting into financial difficulty in the future.

Sadly it has been shown that although there are very many housing applicants that would love to live in these properties, they simply cannot afford to do so.

In a new development such as this it is right that the council spend time getting a good mix of tenants, and more importantly ensure that they can afford to meet the rent and other living.

The fact that it is taking time does not mean that there’s no urgent need for housing across the whole borough.

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Responses to Letter: There Is An Urgent Housing Need In Guildford

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Can we please take note that the term ‘affordable’ as set out in the draft Local Plan is a ‘misrepresentation, and in this case affordable is 40% higher than council property, and they are unsuitable for anyone under 35.

    So much for “we’re doing this for the young of the borough”.

    How much less affordable will be the executive homes at Wisley, Gosden Hill, Blackwell Farn, and the villages being removed from the green belt?

  2. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    An interesting piece by Cllr Reeves.

    It underlines clearly that the draft Local Plan will not deliver against the needs of the borough.

    We are planning to build +5,000 “affordable” homes.

    Cllr Reeves echoes many comments here on The Guildford Dragon NEWS. “The term ‘affordable’ is a misrepresentation. Although lower than the market rent, these flats are beyond the reach of many with a regular but not highly paid job.”

    It seems that the current need is not being met by what is planned – brilliant.

    You’ve got to got to remember the population of Guildford is forecast by the ONS to decline over the plan period with the forecasted growth in the plan coming from overseas migration.

    I keep on saying, building lots of homes is not going to solve the need.

    And neither is banding around the word “affordable” going to make them actually affordable for those in need as if it was some sort of financial fairy dust.

    Guildford should plan for the need of Guildford and not the greed of the developers. The current plan clearly does the latter.

  3. David Smith Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    In reply to Caroline Reeves:

    It is interesting that this has been picked up, as I made my comment about this some time ago.

    I actually had no doubt that we needed affordable housing in the borough – my point was that we needed houses for families not just one-bedroom flats and flats in general in the town centre.

    Obviously you have provided an explanation as to why the Barratt flats have taken a while to fill and so perhaps I got it wrong.

    I would however question if we can build to a slightly cheaper spec to make the flats more affordable. Having been in one, the specification seems very high and on a par with a high end luxury development.

    Perhaps more innovative design could lead to cheaper build costs which could lead to a cheaper eventual rent?

  4. D Fassom Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    I love it.

    We can’t find anyone to occupy the affordable homes we already have but let’s build another 13,860 just in case we need some more!

    The latest wheeze that GBC have come up with is to state that we can always build more houses on the green belt in case Woking or other boroughs need more houses.

    Given a large proportion of these new houses will also be unaffordable to local people the obvious conclusion is that we will simply end up with more people moving into the area creating more congestion, car pollution, demand on the hospital, care homes, schools and other public services.

    No-one with any experience of these things can imagine that all the promised new schools and infrastructure will ever be built.This is all very unnecessary.

  5. Lisa Wright Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Cllr Reeves gives a very clear picture of the ‘affordability’ problems.

    Perhaps developers could ‘gift’ some properties to the council instead of building affordable homes?

  6. John Ferns Reply

    June 17, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    In response to Lisa Wright, pigs will fly first.

    In another article, the lead councillor for housing, Tony Rooth asserts: “The borough council is one of few councils to keep its 5,000 council houses to provide social housing for the less advantaged. The council is now taking the lead on building new homes on council owned land.

    “We recently built 65 new homes and have plans to build on other land we own, in particular Guildford Park car park with 160 new homes (40% affordable) and a new car park – more housing and more parking.”

    This is very all very laudable and and we can only hope that this will help to assuage the pressure on local roads in the cheaper areas of Ash/Tongham/Aldershot by public sector and other service industry employees of Guildford- based workplaces.

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