Yorkshire housing in crisis as budgets slashed

YORKSHIRE is facing a housing crisis with only a fraction of the thousands of properties needed actually being delivered and the Government cutting £20m of support for the industry.

Experts have warned the region needs 15,000 affordable homes yet so far only 2,500 have been built and there is expected to be little support from publicly-funded programmes, following the announcement that nearly half a billion pounds will be slashed from the national housing budget.

Most local councils across the region have failed to tempt developers to provide even half of the affordable properties it is estimated they need, with 12 authorities unable to achieve more than 20 per cent.

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In Scarborough and East Riding only four per cent of were built, while in York it was just eight per cent.

Only the small rural council of Hambleton has come close to meeting its housing need – achieving 97 per cent – but the next best was neighbouring Richmondshire with 53 per cent.

Affordable housing is aimed at those on lower incomes and helps buyers through publicly- funded programmes.

David Curtis of the Homes and Communities Agency, said councils would not be able to rely on public sector funds to tempt developers in the future.

He said: "The biggest problem for the region is new affordable home building is still at a very low level. There are very limited numbers of houses being built by the private sector.

"The region needs to be building a lot more private sector homes than we can support with public funds and therefore affordable housing waiting lists have gone up. The market just is not there for developers at the moment – people are not able to afford a mortgage and many first-time buyers can't afford the deposit that lenders are asking for. Therefore demand for support schemes is growing and these schemes will come under increasing pressure."

The previous Government set up schemes such as Home Buyer Direct, shared ownership and intermediate rent to help people get on the property ladder.

Home Buyer Direct was due to end in September and will not be extended. The programme helped around 1,000 households in Yorkshire last year.

Wakefield Council Chief Executive Joanne Roney is part of the national commission looking into the housing role of local councils, which will report to the Government later this month.

She warned that not only would the housing backlog increase, but it would also create a skills shortage in the construction industry.

She said: "There is a real concern around housing supply at a time when there are severe cuts – we don't know at this stage what the impact on the housing programme will be but we have to look at ways to get homes built without public subsidy.

"The commission will come up with a set of recommendations, but we have toured the country and it is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

"We believe it is time for quite a radical rethink on housing policy, there are a whole raft of initiatives that could be brought in and now is the time for local authorities to innovate more."

The Government has scrapped "Soviet" style housing targets as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said they had failed. Instead he will introduce financial incentives for councils.

Housing charity Shelter warned that the economic crisis had created "a perfect storm". Head of policy Roger Harding said: "Public spending this year is going down and bank lending is either stagnant or going down meaning developers are less able to invest.

"During the boom years for the housing market, developers provided about 50 per cent of the country's affordable housing as part of agreements with local authorities, now those private developments are not happening and it is very difficult to see how the gap will be filled."