“Most new “affordable” housing in Devon is anything but, a major new DevonLive investigation has revealed.
Affordable housing is an umbrella term used by the government to describe lower-rent properties that are available to eligible households unable to afford the full market rate.
This includes both traditional social rent housing – which is similar to what most people know of as council housing – and “affordable rent” housing, which was first introduced in 2011/12.
Social rent is based on a formula that combines local wages and local property values, and typically sees rents set at around 50 per cent of private rents in the same area.
“Affordable rent”, however, is capped at 80 per cent of the full market rate – meaning that in many areas it will still be out of the reach of people on low incomes. …
… Some local areas see “affordable rent” housing dominate more than others. In Mid Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge and West Devon, 100 per cent of new affordable housing was “affordable rent” rather than social rent last year.
Meanwhile, in East Devon the figure stood at 97 per cent, in Torridge at 67 per cent, and in both North Devon and Exeter at just 13 per cent.
In Plymouth the figure also stood at 100 per cent, while in Torbay they made up 58 per cent of the total.
In comparison, the national average saw 81 per cent of new affordable housing built or acquired across England in 2017/18 classed as “affordable rent” rather than social rent.
The most common type of affordable housing found in Devon is general needs properties managed by private registered providers, such as housing associations.
These cost an estimated £86 a week on average for a social rent property, compared to £121 a week for an “affordable rent” property – meaning “affordable rent” in Devon is typically 42 per cent higher, or £1,854 more a year. Private renters in Devon pay an estimated £150 a week, on average.
Kate Henderson chief executive of the National Housing Federation said: “In 2010, the government stopped funding social housing altogether, and announced it would only fund homes for “affordable rent” instead.
“This left housing associations in a really difficult position where they had to choose between building homes for “affordable rent” or building nothing.
“In the face of a dire housing shortage, many housing associations chose to build affordable rented homes, but continued to argue that social housing shouldn’t be neglected.
“While affordable rents do work for some people, there are many more who desperately need social housing.
“In 2017, the government announced some new money for social housing for the first time in seven years, but this is nowhere near enough.”