Slump in affordable homes being built in Bristol
THE NUMBER of new affordable houses built across the Bristol area has slumped, it has been revealed.
Just 326 homes, built for people who cannot afford to buy or rent at market prices, were started over the past 12 months – less than half of the previous year's total of 674.
New figures, published for the first time on a local level today by the Homes and Communities Agency, show the stark challenges facing young people trying to get on to the property ladder or languishing on housing waiting lists.
The number of new affordable homes is dwarfed by the projected increase in the number of households in the Bristol area.
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In the city of Bristol the total number of affordable schemes started plummeted from 272 to 66, in South Gloucestershire it fell from 135 to 101 and Bath & North East Somerset saw numbers slide from 228 to 25.
Only in North Somerset, where the major Locking Parklands development is being built near Weston- super-Mare, did numbers increase, from 39 to 134.
One Labour MP branded the figures "shocking".
As well as schemes getting underway, the number of completed affordable homes was also published, showing 912 new homes across the four areas in the year up to 2012. But this was also down on the previous year's total of 1,293.
The HCA said the reduction reflected the changeover from the affordable housing scheme under the last government.
Under the coalition, targets will be set on a four-year, rather than annual basis.
The term "affordable homes" covers those built for cheap rent, which cannot be more than 80 per cent of the local market rate, social housing and affordably priced homes for purchase.
Developers regularly strike up deals with local authorities to build affordable homes as part of the process of securing permission for developments of homes destined for sale on the open market.
Crest Nicholson, the firm responsible for much of the Harbourside, included affordable housing when the first apartments were built.
Sainsbury's plans to redevelop Bristol City's current home at Ashton Gate also include more than 100 affordable houses.
But the recession and its effect on the property market has changed the picture.
The developers behind the huge Finzels Reach development on the former Courage brewery site in the city centre included affordable housing in their original plans.
The first phase of social housing was built but after the crash in the property market the firm went back to the council and said the second phase of affordable housing was no longer economically viable.
HDG Mansur claimed that work on the project would come to halt if the firm was forced to stick to the original agreements – and as a result plans for 37 affordable homes were dropped, along with agreed payments towards investment in schools, roads and public art.
According to official estimates, the number of households in Bristol and its three neighbouring authorities will rise by an average of 7,800 every year between now and 2033.
Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, said: "These new figures show that the government's plan to build affordable homes is shockingly inept."
She said Tory Minister Grant Shapps, pictured, had asked to be judged on whether more homes were being built than under Labour, and added: "By his own measure he is failing."
The flagship New Homes Bonus, under which councils are compensated for the number of new homes they build or bring back into use, has been "ineffective", she said.
Ms McCarthy added: "In Bristol families, young couples and those in the private rented sector who face soaring rents and want to buy their first home are now paying the price."
Parts of the Greater Bristol area already experience acute pressure on housing, with a lack of affordable homes leading to growing pressure on green spaces.
Kingswood Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who has campaigned to preserve the green belt in his constituency, said: "The government has made it absolutely clear that we need to build more houses but, above all, these must be first built on brownfield sites and non-greenbelt land, as well as not forgetting those homes that are currently lying empty."
He also called for developments that have been given the green light to speed up, adding: "There are areas such as Emersons Green East where planning permission has been granted for several thousand homes, yet the builders are yet to start work on the new development – I hope that they will do so as soon as possible."