Affordable housing action plea in Forest Heath

News from the Bury Free Press
News from the Bury Free Press
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The number of affordable homes granted planning approval by Forest Heath District Council has dropped year-on-year since 2011 with only six new properties given the go-ahead in 2013.

The figures revealed through a Freedom of Information Request by the Bury Free Press showed that 98 homes have been approved since the beginning of 2010, while 1,242 applicants wait on the council’s housing register.

Opposition councillor Tim Huggan said: “Forest Heath has to do a lot better at setting the conditions and involving itself in helping and assisting the building of affordable houses.

“People in the district who want to stay in the district should have the opportunity to do that without having to be very high earners. We must make sure we have a housing stock that means people can afford to rent and remain here.”

A spokesperson for Forest Heath District Council said the fall in the number of homes approved had resulted from a decline in the number of applications bought forward during the economic slump.

Cllr Huggan said that opposition members had drawn up an alternative budget for the council in which they suggested that a proportion of its reserves were invested in building affordable housing.

He said that if managed by a housing association the returns on the scheme would be greater than interest earned from a bank.

The council target is for 30 per cent affordable housing on all developments of 10 homes or more. From 2009 to 2012, 17.6 per cent of all homes completed were affordable.

Forest Heath District Council has said that a housing strategy will go to consultation on March seeking opinion on the option of borrowing money to invest in affordable housing.