Housing crisis set to deepen in rural areas

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SENIOR politicians have warned the breadth of the affordable housing crisis gripping Yorkshire’s rural communities is widening as more householders face losing their homes amid the economic slump.

Councils across the region are continuing to battle to ensure adequate numbers of affordable properties are built to address what is now deemed to be one of the most pressing issues faced by local authorities.

And the problems are often being most keenly felt in isolated communities, where there is no scope for building large housing developments to help counter the soaring property prices.

Hambleton District Council’s portfolio holder for housing, Coun Mark Robson, admitted the affordable housing crisis is now blighting a far wider section of society, and warned that demand for new homes is continuing to outstrip supply.

He said: “Before the biggest concern was for first time buyers who were unable to get on the property ladder, but the problem is now far wider than that.

“There are people with mortgages who are faced with being unable to keep up with repayments, and that means they are then faced with being made homeless.

“It is definitely one of the biggest issues we are facing here in Hambleton, and it is one that is affecting everywhere else as well.

“One of the biggest problems is actually getting the homes built, as many construction firms appear to be waiting for the market to improve. We have given planning permission for 1,900 homes in the Hambleton district since 2010, but only 100 have so far been finished.”

The National Housing Federation has already warned the Government that it is failing to tackle the escalating problems as figures released last autumn showed that owning a home is no longer an option for many in the region.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in November last year that homelessness in the region rose for the first time in seven years during the previous financial year.

A total of 4,420 households were registered by local authorities as homeless in 2010/11, compared to 3,880 in 2009/10.

But the average wait for social housing in the region is now more than three times longer than a decade ago and stands at an average of 4.7 years.

Average rents in the private sector are also set to soar across Yorkshire by 19 per cent in the next five years.

The average house price in Yorkshire has risen to £161,466 – an increase of nearly £8,000 in just 12 months – while the average income is less than £19,700.

House prices in Yorkshire have risen faster than in any other region and almost four times faster than regional incomes in the past decade.

But attempts made to introduce affordable homes will be highlighted in the national Rural Housing Week next month.

Successes include two projects which have provided a total of 18 homes in the villages of Osmotherley and Swainby in the Hambleton district.

In neighbouring Richmondshire, affordable homes have been created for young people with eight self-contained units at Castle Mews in Richmond.

And in Bainbridge, a development saw the old workhouse converted into apartments and new bungalows and houses built on the site at Scott Hill to provide accommodation for the elderly.

Over the last four years, 49 new affordable homes have been developed across seven parishes in the Scarborough borough, including schemes in Lythe, Glaisdale and Hinderwell, while a total of 95 new affordable properties were completed in 2011/12 in Ryedale.

The North Yorkshire Strategic Housing Partnership has overseen an initiative which has seen 126 new affordable homes created in the county’s rural areas in the last 12 months.

Another 100 homes are scheduled to be completed throughout this year.