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Affordable Housing

The Devizes Joint Strategic Assessment 2011 identified affordable housing as being one of the major housing issues facing the Town.  Furthermore, it breaks down the number of applicants registered on the housing register with 863 single bedroom and 344 two bedroom dwellings being sought.  The proportion of its population being of working age is 58%, the lowest in the County.  Devizes has a higher percentage of persons of retirement age, and over, than the national average, 23.1% against 19.1%.  Over the past 10 years developers have preferred to build the larger houses that generate higher profit margins.  This has ignored the population demographics and has consequently changed the structure of the community.  As a result, there has been an undesirable increase in commuting from Devizes to other centres of employment; a significant growth in the housing register waiting list to 1,369 households and empty, unsold new build larger houses on current developments.  The DCAP 2011 Consultation Survey showed that 1 in 6 households were occupied by three or more adults and that the main reason was the cost of housing.  Quotas for the number of affordable homes required to be built in developments have eased the problem but have clearly not done enough.  There are economic and social reasons for higher levels of affordable homes to be provided as current house prices are beyond the reach of so many young families.

Another of the key drivers of the growth in demand for housing is the increasing longevity of the population combined with healthcare policies that encourage the elderly to live in the community.  Planned housing provision for the elderly has been in care homes that presume some level of support being required by residents and hence requiring on-going service charges.  This overlooks those independent senior couples who are fit and healthy but wish to downsize in order to minimise living costs.  Housing developments focussed on the elderly should offer both supported and independent accommodation.  This creates a ripple effect with occupants of such developments vacating the larger homes required by growing families.  There is a strong argument that housing for the elderly should be in centrally located apartments close to essential shops.  The social nature of shopping and its importance in helping the elderly to remain independent should not be overlooked. 

Plans that do not provide sufficient affordable homes in new developments will not be meeting the needs of a responsible community.  All future housing developments should have 50% or more affordable homes until the number of applicants on the housing register has been reduced to 500.  Priorities should then be reviewed. 

With Wiltshire Council having to trim its budgets as part of the Coalition’s austerity measures the public sector may not be able to consider investing in affordable social housing.  Market forces may lead developers to construct lower cost housing where there is a proven market but this is uncertain.  There is therefore a strong argument for the council to work closely with housing associations to utilise brownfield sites, council owned land and the conversion of older buildings for the provision of the affordable homes that Devizes should have in the Plan period, 2012 - 2026.  

This artcle is an extract from the Devizes Community Area Plan

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