The ‘desperate’ need for more affordable homes in East Devon

“There’s a huge need for more affordable housing across the district. The current waiting list has over 4700 individuals and families on it. To put that into context, EDDC only has around 4300 properties and this is decreasing year on year due to the Right to Buy (RTB). We have had 70 requests for RTB so far this year.”

[Councils are prohibited from keeping all of the money from Right to Buy (RTB) sales. The rules over retaining and spending receipts are complex and frequently revised.

In addition RTB homes have to be sold at a discount.This discount was increased substantially in 2012. Since this increase the Local Government Association (LGA) has calculated that in total £6bn has been given out in discounts.

The net effect is that local authorities have only been able to replace around a third of homes sold since 2012, which in turn means that they are struggling to provide housing for homeless and vulnerable families. – Owl. Source: ]

Unusually, the Exmouth Journal does not identify the author of the “opinion” article below.

Owl has discovered that it is Cllr. Dan Ledger: portfolio holder “Sustainable Homes and Communities”, chair of Housing Task and Finish Forum and of the Poverty Working Panel.

The ‘desperate’ need for more affordable homes in East Devon 

So what are the plans for increasing affordable home numbers across the district? 

The vast majority of the district’s affordable homes come through planning obligations on developers. For East Devon, the local plan stipulates that 25% of all major application homes should be affordable. Most of these homes end up in the ownership of housing associations where the tenures are split depending on localised housing needs. This delivers between 150-350 new affordable homes each year. It’s great for areas seeing large growth but where little housing is planned there aren’t enough affordable homes coming through. 

One of my first major acts at EDDC, when I joined in 2019, was putting forward a motion to rescope our dormant housing company. A task and finish forum (a small working group of councillors) was set up, working alongside officers, on how we could ensure EDDC started developing social homes again. We met with other local authorities, found out what had worked, and what hadn’t, and looked at an array of delivery models. From the TAFF, we have created a new council service called the Housing Task Force. 

The aim is to deliver truly affordable, secure and sustainable homes for the residents of East Devon who need them most. As part of this year’s budget, £500k was allocated to staff and initially fund the set up of a housing task force for two years. The sites will be a mixture of open market acquisitions and the redevelopment of under-utilised areas of council-owned assets. I am glad to announce we have several sites that are currently going through viability testing to build a pipeline of new social homes.

The first site of 25 units will be delivered late next year in Honiton, subject to planning. These new homes will be fully developed by outside contractor ZEDPods. ZEDpods produce modular buildings that are zero carbon, come with air source heating and solar panels as standard and have 70-year warranties on a lot of the home’s components. The homes will not only be highly energy efficient and reduce fuel poverty for our residents, but they will also reduce overall maintenance costs over time. This will allow further money to be put into improving our housing stock or increasing the number of homes we have under Council ownership. 

If you wish to see what the new homes could look like ZEDPods will be installing a temporary unit in the car park at Blackdown House, our Honiton Council Offices, early in the new year. 

The added stock will allow for strategic decisions to be made with our existing housing stock. We can look to dispose of or redevelop some of our homes that would struggle with retrofitting measures to make them more energy efficient. The government has set a requirement of all homes being D or higher by 2025 or they will be unable to be relet, this is why I’m so glad the Task Force has come around when it has. 

It won’t happen overnight but we will introduce a comprehensive renewed asset maintenance plan which will lead to better homes for our residents. We will increase affordable housing numbers, improve our existing stock, reduce the Council’s ongoing maintenance costs, reduce residents’ utility costs and start to tackle the issue of residents who have grown up in the area not being able to continue to live here due to unaffordable housing costs. 

The plan is there, we just need to deliver it now. I’m looking forward to the journey ahead. “