Affordable Housing – a suggestion to consider

Local Housing to meet Local Need in Rural Communities

Below is an article which was published in the Ropewalker in September.  Following it are some definitions relating to Affordable Housing provided by SSDC in a recent press release.

‘Can we develop a community hybrid scheme in West Coker that will work?’

In July, Councillor Ric Pallister, Leader of the SSDC and ‘Portfolio Holder for Housing’, asked to come and address the West Coker Parish Council meeting.  His presentation is summarised here as he wants us to find out what the village thinks of his ideas.

Cllr Pallister is attempting to tackle the twin problems of

  1. an ageing population – a projected increase of 57% in people over 85 from 2008 to 2025, with corresponding increases in those with limiting illness or dementia
  2. housing prices out of the reach of the young – the average house here costs 10 years’ average income.

He wants to develop ‘sustainable, inclusive, mixed communities’ in places with appropriate facilities (e.g. healthcare, transport) such as West Coker.  ‘Mixed’ means two things; mixed in age group, both the old and the young, and mixed in that some houses would be ‘open market’, while others would be ‘affordable’.

The obstacles to be overcome are money, land, appropriate developers, community buy-in and ‘bravery – the will to go beyond our comfort zone’.

At the personal level, older people don’t want to leave their friends and neighbours and maybe their garden.  They also fear having to ‘clear the loft’ and leaving their memories. But it’s better to ‘move before the first fall’.  What’s needed is an attractive local downsizing solution; houses with level access, community and care facilities and gardens and allotments.  To avoid being priced out their home village, young people need special financial structures such as buying by shared ownership or equity, or modest rents.

Ric believes that the two age-groups can mix, and he asked us to explain his concept to the village – hence our summary above – so we can ‘assess the appetite’ and ‘research the need’.  Later on, if something goes ahead, there are issues of finding the right developer, designing the right product, developing financial packages and bringing the Health sector on board.

The Parish Council understands the concept and sympathises with the aims, but fears that most villages will immediately focus on the question of  ‘where?’, so this issue has to be considered in parallel.  One candidate, mentioned by Cllr Pallister, is land between Burrells and the twineworks; the SSDC owns land required to gain access to this site from the east. There may well be other possible sites in the parish. A further concern is that we believe that local people must have priority for the houses, irrespective of any wider register.

What we need now are YOUR views on the concept and how it might apply in West Coker (including Sampson’s Wood).  Send your thoughts, ideas and suggestions to  the village website email:

SSDC Definitions/explanations –

  • “Affordable Housing” generally means housing that is made available for those who are unable to access suitable housing in the current market. The Government’s preferred definition is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
  • “Affordable Rent” is the rent regime applied to new homes where subsidy has been made available by the Government through the Homes and Communities Agency. Rents are ‘up to 80%’ of the rate that would be charged for a property of the same size and quality if it were let on the private rented market.
  • “Shared Ownership” is where the occupant purchases a share in the value of the property and pays rent on the remainder. The housing association retains the freehold while the shared ownership leaseholder gains most of the usual rights and responsibilities of an owner. The residual rent is calculated on a pro rata basis, so the larger the share you buy the lower your rental contribution.
  • HomeFinder Somerset is a common register used by all five local housing authorities in Somerset and over 40 Housing Associations and other such landlords.
  • In addition to the two Community Land Trust schemes, the District Council is currently supporting another twenty affordable housing projects spread across another eleven different settlements.
  • The ten houses at Norton Sub Hamdon have been made possible through capital subsidy of £420,000 made available to Yarlington Housing by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).
  • The HCA is investing just over £ 3 million in public subsidy to the other affordable housing projects currently underway in South Somerset and the District Council is investing just over £ ½ million
  • In total 275 new affordable homes are expected to be delivered this financial year across South Somerset, of which 80 will be for shared ownership and the remainder will be either social or affordable rent (i.e. sub market rents in all cases)

For More information, contact Martin Hacker, Communications officer, SSDC. 462130