Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by South West Regional Assembly (HOU 31)

  This submission to the Select Committee is jointly from the South West Regional Assembly, the South West Local Government Association and the South West Regional Development Agency.

  Affordable housing is a key concern of the region, both in urban and rural areas, and features strongly in the draft Regional Housing Strategy 2002-05 (copy attached). The Regional Housing Strategy, which is currently out in the region for consultation, is also likely to make recommendations about the quality and sustainability of all new housing.

  The South West has a relatively low proportion of social rented housing (16 per cent, compared with 24 per cent nationally). We have high in-migration, putting pressure on the housing stock, coupled with high second home ownership (nearly 40 per cent in some parishes), rising numbers of households in acute housing need, and the loss of homes from the public stock due to right-to-buy (several authorities have lost nearly half their stock). In addition, the region is characterised by relatively low average earnings but house prices which are the third highest in the country behind only London and the South East (regional figures are given in Figure 1).

  All these factors contribute to an acute need for more affordable housing. As this is such a crucial issue for the South West, in November 2002 Lord Rooker will come to the region to open a conference on this theme.

  Delivery is key. The current indicative estimate of the demand for affordable housing is in the order of 6,000-10,000 units per year (compared to an overall regional net demand of 20,200 dwellings). More money being made available is welcomed; however increases in land and house prices makes it difficult to provide social housing. Levels of completions by tenure achieved in recent years in the region are provided in Figure 2. Without a regional breakdown of Comprehensive Spending Review figures, it is difficult to make judgements as to whether the funds made available by the Government will achieve the "decent home for all" target in the South West.

  The Inquiry is respectfully urged to probe whether the proposed changes in the planning system, coupled with the creation of Regional Housing Bodies working in an integrated way with existing regional bodies to address the housing agenda, will meet some of the challenges faced by the South West in terms of delivering sufficient affordable housing.

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