A strategy that aims to help stop parts of the South Hams and West Devon become ‘millionaire holiday communities’ and to ensure people can afford to live in the region has been devised.
South Hams and West Devon have a different interpretation of: “Build back Better” and “Planning for the Future”. Essential reading for EDDC? – Owl
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
The ‘Better Homes, Better Lives’ strategy sets out the housing strategy for the two districts for the next five years, as they aim to make the best of our beautiful natural environment, but also delivers for those who need it the most.
House prices have been increasing in the area with a 27 per cent increase in house prices in West Devon in the last five years and a 17 per cent increase in the average house price in South Hams, and the ratio of lower quartile house price to lower quartile gross earnings has correspondingly increased such that it is now 11 times the average earnings in South Hams and 10.42 in West Devon.
At the same time, levels of fuel poverty in the district and borough are above the national average, affecting occupants of existing housing stock. The national average proportion of households in fuel poverty in 2017 was 10.9 per cent compared to West Devon 12.6 per cent and South Hams 11.2 per cent.
A total of 8.2 per cent of the total dwellings in the South Hams are second homes with up to 50 per cent in some areas, while the availability of housing is further restricted by many otherwise available homes being registered as a holiday homes business.
And the impact of ever-increasing house prices is the continued shift in demographic profile for both South Hams and West Devon, with the median age of homeownership in the two areas ten years older than the national average.
South Hams and West Devon housing strategy
Both council last week agreed to go out to consultation on their ‘Better Homes, Better Lives’ housing strategy which aims to devise plans for the future that will deliver healthy and well-balanced communities, and to provide more affordable housing for locals who are unable to get on the housing ladder.
Speaking at last Thursday’s South Hams executive committee, Cllr Jonathan Hawkins said: “The strategy and policy is really good and easy to read. We have to provide affordable and social housing for local people to be able to live in the South Hams. Some of the communities are becoming millionaire’s holiday communities but we have to provide homes for local people who can afford them. It should be one of our priorities and we have to achieve that in the next few years.”
Cllr Hilary Bastone added: “This comes at a time of great uncertainty for people and a time when home took on a greater meaning. Important that we build back better and make commitments to change.”
Salcombe in the South Hams boasts many second homes
At last week’s West Devon hub committee, Cllr Debo Sellis said: “As we start to recover from the pandemic, it is important that we build back better. We want to deliver the key commitments so we ensure the residents, current and future, benefit from strategy that makes the best of our beautiful natural environment and delivers for those who need it the most.”
Cllr Chris Edmonds added: “I hope this brings forward more affordable housing, not just through developer contributions, and my wish is for a good mix of tenure’s so people have the chance to at least own a share of a house. I hope we can deliver some truly affordable housing in some form or other.”
In the foreword to the strategy, Cllrs Bastone and Sellis in the introduction state: “As our areas start to emerge and recover from the pandemic, it is important that we build back better, revisit our priorities and make commitments to change. That’s why we have called our strategy Better Homes, Better Lives
“We want to deliver on these key commitments to ensure all our residents, current and future benefit from a strategy that makes the best of our beautiful natural environment, but also delivers for those who need it the most.
“This popularity has over a number of years had an impact on the affordability levels of housing for local people. Average house prices have continued to rise well beyond the rise in the average local wage, making home ownership an unrealistic aspiration for many people living and working the area today. Most recent estimates show the average house costing 11.6 times the average wage in South Hams, and 10.6 times in West Devon.”
The strategy adds: “The sensitive natural landscape present challenges in terms of building large numbers of new homes, and most of the towns and villages are ill-equipped to adapt to the additional of large scale housing development, with local infrastructure, particularly transport networks in town centres, unable to be adapted to accommodate significantly greater usage
“Understanding the key characteristics of a place can help to devise plans for the future that will deliver healthy and well-balanced communities that are resilient to change. In order to create a housing strategy for South Hams and West Devon, it was important to know what issues needed to be addressed. Whilst the affordability challenges are well understood, the implications of this are less well known, for both the built environment and the people that live in South Hams and West Devon.”
The strategy says there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in home ownership from people outside Devon since the start of lockdown in March 2020, adding: “These home owners are relocating to a more desirable area, and taking advantage of the fact that very few people needed daily access to their place of work, indeed in a lot of cases people were actively discouraged from physically going to work.
“There is a chance that if remote working remains the norm for many people, the baseline data for average earnings in South Hams and West Devon will be artificially increased by virtue of people living in the area but working further afield in areas where average earnings are typically much higher.
‘Rise in second home ownership is distorting the South Hams housing market and pushing house prices up’
“But the displacement of people earning lower wages does not mean that the affordability problem has gone away, but simply that the people earning lower wages can no longer afford to live in the area, and have had to find somewhere to live in a cheaper area.”
The most recent census data shows that the dwelling stock in South Hams and West Devon is distinctly different from the national average. Both areas have far fewer one and two bed homes, 34 per cent, than the national average for England which is 40 per cent, while at the other end of the spectrum, with the housing stock of South Hams and West Devon comprising an average of 27 per cent of four and five bed homes compared to 19 per cent nationally.
It adds: “Household sizes have been getting smaller for a number of years, and this trend is projected to continue well into the medium term, and is just as applicable to rural areas as it is for urban areas. The difficulty this creates is that with every passing year the housing stock of South Hams and West Devon is becoming less aligned with the needs of the households that live in these areas.
“Combine this with the fact that larger homes typically cost more in South Hams and West Devon than in many other parts of the country, and you get a formula for further economic and social displacement for people living here.
“Of course many people will choose to under-occupy their home because it allows for flexibility of use like working from home or for accommodating occasional guests, but the proportion of homes that are significantly under-occupied in South Hams and West Devon however is also well above the national average.
“This identifies homes with at least two unused bedrooms, and data shows that 46 per cent of homes in both South Hams and West Devon are considered to be significantly under-occupied compared with the national average of 34 per cent.
“It may be that the home owners do not wish to live in smaller accommodation, but the data suggests a housing stock that does not align well with household sizes, and without a significant increase in the delivery of smaller homes this trend is only going to get worse
The blanket of snow made for some beautiful scenery on Dartmoor (Image: Matt Gilley/Plymouth Live)
“There are also pockets of poor quality housing located in South Hams and West Devon that feature both disrepair and overcrowding. The quality of housing has a direct impact upon the health and wellbeing of its occupants.”
The key aims of the strategy are:
Ensure sustainable housing growth
Housing needs to be delivered in places that are well served with services and amenities, and in sufficient quantity to meet the identified housing needs of the area, and if new development is going to contribute to making better places for people to live, we need to look beyond the number of new houses, and ensure that new homes are of the right type, in the right place and are accessible for those in most need.
Through the Joint Local Plan, the councils aim deliver 7,000 high quality, sustainable and affordable housing during the lifetime of the plan across South Hams and West Devon.
Promote Balanced and Sustainable communities
The long term resilience of rural communities depends upon having a diverse housing stock that can meet the needs of a wide range of households. By ensuing that new development adds diversity to the housing stock, we can help ensure our communities are inclusive and equitable places to live, and that can create communities that are well prepared to respond to change.
Ensuring that homes support the Health and Wellbeing of the area
The Council wants to meet the housing needs of all communities and the challenges of an ageing population. This Strategy aims to promote the best use of current housing stock, whatever the tenure, and enable new housing that is built to a standard that will enhance the health and wellbeing of future occupants.
Homes that support the Health and Wellbeing of our residents
The Councils are compelled to addressing hardship, deprivation, ill health and inequalities that exist within our areas.
Make the best use and improve the quality of existing housing
The Council is committed to making better use of already existing housing to meet the needs of residents and to encourage long-term empty homes back into use and address under occupation and overcrowding within social housing stock and by doing so reduce length of time on the housing register.
Following both council’s approval last week, the strategy will now go out for consultation, with the aim of it to return to both of them for adoption in March 2021. This would be accompanied by a Year 1 delivery plan that outlines how both South Hams and West Devon councils would achieve the aims within the first 12 months.