Affordable housing concerns

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The development of social housing in Forest Heath is failing to meet increasing demand for affordable homes.

A report compiled by Forest Heath District Council has concluded that while housing need and levels of homelessness are increasing, new housing completions in the area are falling.

Rona Burt, Forest Heath District Council’s cabinet member for planning, housing and transport, said: “It’s an area we are very concerned about and one we will be looking at – it’s not going to be sorted overnight, but in time.”

The report highlights one of the reasons for a fall in the completion of new, affordable housing as a failure on behalf of housing provider Flagship to develop the land it owns in the district.

Mark Palmer, Flagship’s head of development and asset management, said: “As an innovative housing provider, our goal is to create places where people want to live, however, in the current economic climate we, like all housing associations, are facing huge challenges.

“Whilst we will continue to provide key customer-focused services, with reduced central government funding, there will inevitably be a short-term effect on the number of new homes.”

The report also raises concerns about the quality of the district’s existing housing stock, 24 per cent of which has been declared as non-decent – the main likely explanation of this being cited as excess cold.

The district council has drawn up a housing strategy to combat these problems which will go before cabinet for approval on Tuesday.

The strategy cites bringing empty homes back into use and making the best of existing housing as a key way of tackling the shortfall.

Typically, there are 900 properties empty in the district at any given time, 340 of which will have been empty for more than six months.