Tackling the housing 'unaffordability crisis'
Published by Liz Reeson for Two Rivers Housing in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Health, Local Government
Steve Parry-Hearn (centre right) with Two Rivers representatives at a new scheme in Cinderford
House prices in rural areas are, on average, 11 times higher than the average wage – driving people on modest incomes out of the countryside and putting rural homes even further beyond reach.
The demand for affordable homes continues to rise and Two Rivers Housing is building an increasing number of properties to help keep pace. Last year it completed 81 new homes, but still more are needed.
The not-for-profit housing association set out some of the problems facing local people to Steve Parry-Hearn, the Labour Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate in the Forest of Dean.
Mr Parry-Hearn joined Chair David Garnett, Chief Executive Garry King and Development Officer Tom Burford for a tour of four sites of new Two Rivers homes – at Cinderford, Alvington, Sedbury and Gorsley.
He saw the quality of construction, heard how Two Rivers uses local suppliers and contractors wherever it can and witnessed some of the energy-efficiency measures that are built into new homes, in a bid to keep residents’ household bills as low as possible.
He also learned how Two Rivers has given financial help to 21 tenants to help them down-size their home in response to the Government’s welfare reforms, and how the association had worked with individual residents over the last year to help them manage their home finances. More than 250 tenants have been helped in this way, resulting in more than £¼ million worth of assistance given.
Garry King, Chief Executive of Two Rivers Housing, said: “It’s no wonder we are in the midst of ‘unaffordability crisis’. There’s high demand for homes in rural areas but, although many can afford the monthly mortgage repayments, they simply can’t raise the deposit. On average, it takes 15 years for someone to save enough money to buy their own home
“Renting becomes their only option so it’s vital there are enough homes available to rent at prices they can afford. We need to see more new homes built in our towns and villages, to achieve a healthy balance of housing types and help to keep these communities alive.”
Mr Parry-Hearn also saw first-hand how the Two Rivers’ building programme has helped to transform people’s lives when he went to Garlands Road in Alvington. David James and Carly Jones moved to their new home there in April with 11-year-old Chloe and their two dogs.
Mr James, who was born in the village and qualified for the house because of that local connection, said: “Never in my wildest dreams did we expect to get a brand new place. We’d almost given up trying to move but then 10 days later we had a telephone call and we were away. Now our whole quality of life has lifted. I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.”
Mr Parry-Hearn said: “I was inspired to see Two Rivers’ commitment to, not only providing superb quality homes to the Forest of Dean community, but also supporting hundreds of families who are suffering the savage effects of the awful Bedroom Tax. They clearly help people where they can, but this is over and above their primary mission, which reduces their capacity to build the affordable homes we need.
“I am very grateful to them for providing quality homes, innovation, social responsibility and supporting the Forest of Dean economy. Hearing a resident say that moving to their new Two Rivers house was “like winning the Lottery” is a resounding testament to their superb work.”
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