Councils join forces to tackle housing crisis

Councils join forces to tackle housing crisis

Councils have launched a new campaign to tackle the housing crisis with a target of 20,000 new homes by 2033 in north, south and west Dorset.

North Dorset District Council, West Dorset District Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council aim to seize the initiative with Opening Doors – Building for the Future.

The programme will include greater action and more intervention at a local level to boost the development of more quality homes of all types – including affordable, open market, private rented and social housing.

Opening Doors – Building for the Future will also include:

  • Working with developers, landowners and housebuilders for more schemes
  • Helping more Community Land Trusts use £2m of funding for ‘bottom up’ affordable housing;
  • The possibility of a Local Authority Trading Company or joint ventures to build houses and use of council land for homes;
  • A Home Ownership Register to help people find properties to be launched in the new year
  • Consideration of a council-led mortgage scheme;
  • Events, such as housing fairs;
  • Closer working with housing associations, developers and land agents;
  • Interventions to kickstart stalled developments;
  • Moves to see more schemes with planning permission built;
  • Applications for Government grants;
  • Reaching out to SME builders and developers;
  • Identification of more Brownfield sites with a bespoke register;
  • Greater focus on Self-Build initiatives;
  • Sensitivity towards the environment, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The councils will also actively pursue opportunities from Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget last week, which included a £44bn funding pledge over next five years.

They have gained Housing Business Ready status from the Housing Finance Institute (HFI) to put expertise in place to work effectively with developers to boost housebuilding.

To reach the 20,000 target, as set out in the Western Dorset Economic Growth Strategy, an average of around 1,176 homes will need to be built every year across the three council areas in total during the period from 2016 to 2033. That is up from an annual average of 737 over the past five years.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, NDDC council leader and housing portfolio holder, said, “We are facing major housing shortages with demand outstripping supply.

“Opening Doors is about seizing the initiative and implementing any measures we can at a local level to help play our part in solving the housing crisis.”

Dorset’s population is set to rise by 14.5% to 884,000 by 2039, according to latest statistics, with an expected 13,200 more jobs needed for the local economy by 2033 in north, south and west Dorset. The average house price in Dorset is £295,202 while the average salary is £24,263 – meaning a house price is 12.2 times the average. Well above the 7.6 national average.

Cllr Tim Yarker, housing portfolio holder for West Dorset District Council, said, “New homes are essential for the future sustainability, growth and prosperity of our communities.

“A mix of good quality housing will help keep young people in our area while attracting and retaining the key and skilled workers our local economy needs to grow.”

Cllr Gill Taylor, housing briefholder for Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, added, “Opening Doors will see us take decisive action and lead from the front on the housing crisis in our areas.

“We are keen to hear from anyone who wants to find out more or become involved, including groups interested in community land trusts, developers, landowners and builders.”

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