Desperate need for affordable homes

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A NEW survey has revealed just how hard it can be to get on the housing ladder in the Mercury area.

Rutland is the second least affordable area in the East Midlands and South Kesteven, which covers Stamford, Bourne and the Deepings, is the ninth.

The figures are based on the price of homes judged against the average individual income.

The National Housing Federation, which promotes affordable housing, released the figures in its Home Truths Report 2011 last week.

The report says the average house in Rutland costs £273,911, 11.8 times more than the average income of £23,119. In South Kesteven the average house price is £182,570, 9.1 times the average income of £20,077.

But according to a survey by Channel 4 for its Great British Property Scandal, 355 homes in Rutland and 1,155 in South Kesteven are empty. These figures include homes in the process of being sold, those belonging to care home residents and empty properties at military bases.

In South Kesteven 3,440 people are on the housing waiting list, while in Rutland the number is 365.

Rutland and South Kesteven have schemes to bring empty housing back into use. But the report has called on the Government to build more affordable homes and focus on housing for the elderly and those with specialist support needs.

East Midlands lead manager for the federation Chris Hobson said: “There is a desperate need for further investment in affordable and social housing in the East Midlands. Lack of supply is at the root of the problem and more investment is needed as an urgent priority.”

The Government’s housing strategy, released last month, set aside £100m to to try to bring empty properties back into use.

It launched a consultation on allowing councils to charge an “empty homes premium” when a property has been out of use for longer than two years.

Paul Manning is head of housing services for Spire Homes, the main provider of affordable housing in Rutland.

He said: “There have never been enough affordable homes built in my time working in housing, particularly in areas where there is high demand for certain property types such as Rutland.

“There is always demand outstripping supply, always people on waiting lists.”

Mr Manning said Spire Homes was keen to build more but was not optimistic the problem could be solved easily.

He added: “As a housing association, providing affordable homes is our bread and butter. We develop new homes in partnership with the county council.

“We would always like to be able to afford to build more new homes. I can’t imagine, particularly in the current economic climate, that there is going to be a huge surge in new affordable and social homes.”