South West Housing Initiative urges councils to release land and planning consents.

February 11, 2009

South West councils now have a waiting list of more than 160,000 applicants for “social housing” – an increase of more than 90 per cent since 1997.

According to a unique partnership of the region’s housing providers and professions, this underlines the fact that the South West has the country’s biggest housing crisis.

The South West Housing Initiative – the UK’s first partnership of regional housing associations, house-builders, housing professions, and employers – has been fighting to highlight the fact that the South West has the biggest affordability-gap between average earnings and average house-prices, and the biggest gap between the region’s demand and supply for new homes.

Martin Willey, Co-ordinator of the South West Housing Initiative, said:  “The doubling of waiting lists for social housing underlines the dire need for new affordable homes in this region.

“That need is the biggest threat to the South West’s economy, and one of the biggest challenges for the region’s councils – and for Government support to those councils.

“At a time of former council-houses still being sold, further reducing the region’s stock of social housing, there is a crucial need for local councils to build new homes, to identify land for new housing – and to deliver the planning consents for those new homes,” Mr Willey said.

The South West Housing Initiative chairman, Richard Kitson, said: “Of course we are all going through difficult times. But we must concentrate on making sure that we build sufficient and affordable homes in the south west, so that employers know that they can also sustain their businesses.

“We are keen to work constructively with the government, regional agencies, local authorities, and banks and building societies to help find a permanent solution to the region’s housing crisis,” said Mr Kitson, who is also group chief executive of Aster Group, one of the South West’s largest providers of social housing.

Acknowledging residents’ concerns about new housing growth, the South West Housing Initiative champions “best practice” delivery of mixed-tenure developments that are designed to deliver sustainable communities and high quality buildings.

“One of the biggest barriers to delivering the South West’s dire need for new homes is the NIMBY resistance of residents,” said Mr Willey.

“That resistance endangers the region’s economy, and its ability to provide homes for such key workers as teachers, health-professionals, service-providers, and private-sector employees,” he added.

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