Housing crucial to meet demand for affordable homes

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THE controversial plans to build more than 600 homes on the edge of York on what campaigners claim is the site of the Battle of Fulford are seen as crucial to addressing the city’s affordable housing crisis.

Politicians and senior civil servants have maintained the 657-home Germany Beck scheme on an eight-acre site on the edge of the city remains a vital component in a strategy to provide critically-needed housing.

York is one of the country’s fastest growing cities with a population that now exceeds 200,000, compounding the demand for properties in what is one of the region’s most desirable locations. The average property price in York was £201,331 in 2011 compared with the regional average of £155,303, according to the National Housing Federation.

The Labour MP for York Central, Hugh Bayley, stressed the Germany Beck development presents a key opportunity to addressing housing shortages and ensuring the city’s economic growth does not falter.

“York’s economy has boomed during the last 20 years, but with the jobs is a need for new housing. We are either going to snuff out the economic growth or create a place which is only inhabited by highly-paid skilled railway engineers, civil servants, insurance executives and university professors.

“The centre of York is an archaeological treasure trove, but if you said that you could not build any new shops, offices or housing there, then the economy would grind to a halt. Every effort needs to be made to protect heritage, but at the same time we have to have development for desperately needed homes in York.”

York Council’s cabinet approved plans this month aimed at kick-starting stalled developments after the number of homes being built has fallen dramatically since 2005. The Get York Building initiative will review affordable housing targets and invest £1m to address overcrowding in existing council homes while also drawing up plans for a mortgage advice scheme.

The regulations stipulating so-called section 106 agreements, which mean developers have to finance community facilities and infrastructure improvements alongside housing developments, are also due to be overhauled.

The council’s assistant director of city and environmental services, Mike Slater, said: “Given Germany Beck is one of the largest developments in the city, it’s crucial that we continue to work with Persimmon in order to get house-building moving on this site.”