York is a nationally recognised “hotspot” for failing to deliver affordable homes, a housing association expert told councillors.
And the number of people waiting for a home on the council’s housing register has risen to around 1,800.
Julia Histon, chief executive of York Housing Association, said the failure to build enough affordable housing means people without stable homes struggle to hold down a job, that parents find it difficult to keep their children in consistent education and that the worry affects their mental health.
Steve Secker from York Property Forum said it also holds the economy back as businesses worry that they cannot expand because new employees may not be able to find a home.
City of York councillors have spoken to developers, housing associations, public bodies and property experts and published a study to look at the issues. They are developing a strategy to ease York’s affordable housing crisis.
They heard that York needs around 205 new affordable homes a year but in recent years around 77 have been built per year – and about 58 housing association homes are lost to right to buy each year. That leaves 19 new homes for people on the housing waiting list or families wanting to buy through other affordable schemes.
Ms Histon said: “We’ve got a massive problem on our hands. This is much wider than housing. Housing is more than just bricks and mortar. It is really impacting the quality of life for people in York.
“York is a particular hotspot and it’s recognised as such nationally. It’s not unique but it’s definitely up there. Even across the region, City of York Council’s delivery on affordable homes is very low in comparison to most other districts in our own region.”
The council has been criticised for only delivering 40 per cent affordable housing in its own housing delivery programme – which will see the council build 600 new homes across the city to a high standard of energy efficiency called passivhaus.
Ms Histon said if the council works with social housing providers on developments, they can bring more grant funding for affordable homes and make it financially practical to build more of them. She praised the council’s study for recommending this approach in future.
Mr Secker said: “Local employers are very concerned about where their workers live and where the growth in the workforce is going to come from to support the economic growth of York.
“We do see large numbers of people having to commute into York in order to take up jobs. More flexibility [in council policies] will maximise the amount of affordable housing. We really welcome the recommendations in this report.”
While more social housing can help those most in need of help, the housing experts told the meeting that other types of affordable home need to be built for key workers like nurses, police and firefighters, who will not disadvantaged enough to make it to the top of the housing waiting list but need help to afford a home in the city.
They recommended that the council look to build a range of affordable housing. Tracey Carter, director of housing at the council, said the shared ownership model has been popular.
Ms Carter said the council will review the plans for its own housing delivery programme and also look at handing smaller development sites over to registered social housing providers to build affordable homes on.
York’s housing delivery programme will build a minimum of 40 per cent affordable homes on each site – double the 20 per cent set level – but the council has committed to building houses to a high energy efficiency standard which pushes up costs.
Ms Carter said: “Is a private developer likely to do what we are doing? Not in the current market. We are leading from the front. We are trying to achieve as much as we can on our sites. It’s about quality as well.”
The study, researched and written by a cross-party group of councillors led by Stephen Fenton and Michael Pavlovic, will make recommendations to senior councillors.