COLUMN: Coun Peter Box calls for your views on housing

Wakefield Council Leader
 Peter Box.
Wakefield Council Leader Peter Box.

There can be few things more fundamental in life than the security of knowing you have a roof over your head. Having somewhere to call home is a basic need. However, it’s more than that; our homes are part of the communities that help shape our experiences in life.

It’s no secret that there’s a national housing crisis and it demands urgent action. Spiralling house prices are forcing difficult choices on families, distorting communities and hampering growth. In Wakefield we need to build 1,600 new homes each year to meet demand, but this is only part of the solution.

I’ve spoken to many residents in their mid-20s who are still living at home, not through choice but through necessity. They simply can’t afford to get on the housing ladder due to the lack of affordable homes to rent or buy.

Surely, this can’t be right?

The government considers starter homes and shared ownership as key to tackling the housing crisis, but I’m adamant that this shouldn’t come at the cost of affordable rented homes. For many people living in Wakefield, and for a wide variety of reasons, home ownership isn’t their preferred choice.

This is why I believe that the solution to the housing crisis has to be based on protecting quality choice for all our residents.

Wakefield Council is committed to supporting the development of new homes in the district; in fact, we believe we have a crucial role to play that goes beyond bricks and mortar. This is why we are involved in a joint venture called Bridge Homes - an innovative new housing company. It was set up in 2013, to grow the supply of new homes in the district and to increase the supply of new affordable homes. It builds high quality homes, just like some of the high end developers. However, the unique nature of this company is that it provides the full 30% of affordable homes on each site. Our partners, WDH then buy the affordable homes from the company and let them to people in need of a good quality rented home.

The company uses local architects, building contractors, and sales and marketing services, again keeping the investment in the district. As the company achieves profits it will all be re-invested in the district to provide more new homes, offering an important new source of funds for housing initiatives.

We know we can’t single-handedly resolve the housing crisis with this venture, but surely it will benefit the district if there is a wider choice of high quality homes to buy and more affordable homes to rent?

These are just my thoughts, as ever I am interested to hear what you think.

What are your experiences? Are you a young person desperate to get on the housing ladder?

What are the barriers preventing this? Perhaps you are a family who has rented for many years with no ambition to be a homeowner.

What is your perception of the rental market in Wakefield? Let me know your thoughts at leader@wakefield.gov.uk.