What we mean by “affordable housing”

What is “affordable housing”?

Marshfield is a great place to live. We have beautiful countryside, a primary school, shops, pubs, community centre, playing fields – pretty much everything you need in village life. But we also have a problem: because it is such a great place, many people want to live here and property prices are going through the roof. That’s fine if you already own property but young people and the less well-off have little chance of buying. If Marshfield becomes a settlement of just well-to-do house owners and second homes it will stagnate. We need the diversity – people of all ages and all income ranges. That means we need to provide affordable housing to restore the balance.

Just about everyone agrees that affordable housing is a good thing. National and local government try to promote it. But it means different things to different people. To property developers it’s to do with the minimum number of cheap houses that they must offer in order to get permission to build an estate of high price houses. To us, it’s about providing housing for people in the Marshfield community who cannot afford open market prices and to do that in a way that ensures that the housing permanently stays affordable. So, for us, there is one thing that “affordable housing” is not. It is not an easy way of getting on the property ladder. The housing remains an asset for the community as a whole, to be used for the benefit of the whole community. It cannot be sold on; it remains affordable forever.

And, to be clear, affordable housing is not quite the same thing as social housing. We are not trying to provide housing for everyone and certainly not for free.

What sort of housing are we talking about?

Affordable housing is intended for Marshfield people who cannot afford the high cost of regular housing in the village. That means mostly families and single people with some retired people. The housing will match that: one and two bedroom flats, two and three bedroom houses.

In the short term, we are probably talking about a relatively small number of units. The Marshfield Housing Needs survey indicated that there is a need for quite a large number of affordable homes but we may be limited by the site we can use and that has not been identified yet (June ’16).

Who is it for?

The housing is for people in the Marshfield community. That is people who have close, long-term ties with the village; they may work here or have family here; maybe they are living in the village with their parents and want to move out of the parental home. We will take advice from the Wessex CLT project and look at the experience of other CLTs to figure out the exact eligibility rules. But the housing is not intended for just anyone who might want to live in Marshfield.

How affordable is “affordable”?

The proposed model for ownership of the homes is for the CLT itself to own the freehold and to work with a suitable housing association (yet to be selected) under a long-term lease. This lease will enable the housing assocciation to fund, develop and manage the homes in accordance with the wishes of the community and (if an exception site is developed) under the terms of a Section 106 Agreement with the Council.

This model has been tried and tested by many other CLTs in the South West and was explained by the Wessex CLT project is their presentation to the public meeting in January ’16.

The maximum rent that can be charged is the Local Housing Allowance (i.e. the most that can be covered by Housing Benefit if a someone is unable to work) or 80% of the market rent for a similar sized property, whichever is the lowest.