Housing shortage leaves thousands struggling

The average price of a home in Gloucestershire is nearly £261,000 – almost 10 times the average salary.

With wages below national average, high levels of rural unemployment, a shortage of affordable properties, and increasing food and energy prices, many people struggle to buy their own home.

Those who choose to rent instead are faced with paying more than £700 a month to rent privately – almost one-third of average income – or joining the long waiting list for a lower-cost housing association or local authority home to become available.

The National Housing Federation has just published its annual ‘Home Truths’ report  for 2016/17, which looks at housing demand, supply and affordability across the country. Its spotlight on the South-West reveals the following about Gloucestershire:

  • The average wage in Gloucestershire is £26,770.
  • The average house price in the county is £260,817 – although a home in the Cotswolds could set you back £382,000, 50% higher than the regional average.
  • Anyone looking to buy their home will need a gross annual income of £59,615 to be able to secure an 80% mortgage.
  • The county has more than 3,500 second homes, and over 2,000 properties are identified as ‘long term empty’ and not being used at all.
  • There are fewer than 30,000 ‘affordable’ homes available to rent through a housing association or local authority, yet there are long waiting lists and almost 16,000 people are queuing up to rent them when they become empty.
  • Almost a quarter (23%) of people claiming Housing Benefit are in work, but relying on state funding to help them make ends meet.

Affordable housing providers across the county have identified the need for another 50,000 homes in Gloucestershire by 2030 to help address current local shortage and future predictions.

On Friday 10 February, the seven organisations which make up Gloucestershire Homes and Communities Partnership (GHCP) will be joined by nearly 100 representatives of other county organisations with an interest in housing, to find solutions to the shortage in the longer-term.

Meanwhile, local housing providers are all working on programmes to build a range of homes to suit different needs, focusing on increasing the number of properties available for low-cost rent in the county’s towns and rural areas. Currently these schemes include:

Cheltenham Borough Homes
Currently developing 45 new homes – a mix of new houses and flats spread across seven sites in and around Cheltenham, for affordable rent and Shared Ownership. Working in partnership with Cheltenham Borough Council, CBH is actively identifying further opportunities to continue delivering affordable homes.

Gloucester City Homes
Developing more than 40 houses, bungalows and flats within the next year, plus a minimum of 230 further homes in the following two years.

Severn Vale Housing
Developing a number of sites within Tewkesbury and the surrounding areas of Gloucestershire. Current projects include (16) new affordable homes at Churchdown in Gloucester and (4) properties at Tewkesbury. More than 55 new homes planned over the next two years. Active asset management through disposing of poor performing properties to reinvest the capital into providing new energy efficient homes. Severn Vale offers project management services to Registered Provider clients in identifying land opportunity and developing new affordable homes within rural villages of Gloucestershire.

Stroud District Council
Building 162 new homes this year before 31 March 2017 and adding another 32 in 2017/18. More homes are planned in conjunction with other local housing association partners.

Two Rivers Housing
Currently developing more than 200 new flats, bungalows and houses on sites at Newent (77), Bream (13), Churcham (7), Gloucester (22) and Tewkesbury (104). They encompass a range of tenures including affordable rent, market rent, Shared Ownership and private sale. TRH plans to build a minimum of 300 new homes by 2020.

There is no doubt Gloucestershire is in the midst of a housing crisis,” said Garry King, Chief Executive of Two Rivers Housing association and a member of GHCP. “It is unrealistic to think everyone is in a position to buy their own home when there is such clear evidence of the mis-match between income, house prices and borrowing capacity.

This has a particularly devastating effect on young families, and it has a negative impact on the many rural areas that typify our county and which rely on a buoyant and mixed community to keep its schools, health services, shops and other amenities prosperous.

“The social housing sector is under increasing pressure to provide enough affordable homes for rent to meet the growing demand. We are, therefore, all building as many homes as we can in an effort to bridge that gap, to house the people who need a low-cost option to putting a roof over their heads and to help keep our communities alive.”

Average (mean) house price:

  • Gloucestershire: £260,817
  • Cheltenham: £274,356
  • Cotswold: £382,104
  • Forest of Dean: £213,284
  • Gloucester: £178,545
  • Stroud: £266,033
  • Tewkesbury: £261,229