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Council Puts Housing Motions in Action

Issued: 6 October 2021

A view of new build houses in Totnes, with flowers growing nearby

Just two weeks after declaring a housing crisis, and agreeing 12 actions for tackling the issues, South Hams District Council's Leader, Cllr Judy Pearce, as promised, is taking immediate action to tackle the housing crisis and putting her agreed motions into action.  

When the Executive committee meet on 14 October, Cllr Pearce will be asking them to consider in more detail the first steps she wants to take in her plan to tackle the housing crisis, they include:

  • Changing a policy to further incentivise people to downsize, in order to free up larger homes for larger families
  • Consider changes to the way affordable housing contributions are spent to make the best use of available funds
  • Agreeing to form a Community Benefit Society - a company so that the Council can own and manage a stock of rented homes
  • Agreeing the content of a letter to Michael Gove MP
  • Exploring building modular low carbon homes that would be owned by the Council

Cllr Judy Pearce said: "I said at the meeting of our Full Council that we needed to take action now and this is exactly why I have brought this paper to my Executive Committee so quickly.  

"I said that we would lobby Government and when the Executive meet next week, I will be asking them to approve the content of my letter to Michael Gove MP.  Many of the issues we face cannot be solved at a local level, and we need the Government to step in and also take action.  

"If Mr Gove can take the four actions we are asking of him, it would have a significant, timely and targeting positive impact for our residents."

The four issues that Cllr Pearce will be asking Mr Gove to tackle are:

  1. the problems of developers sat on planning permissions that are not being built
  2. closing the current business rates loophole on second homes; and
  3. addressing the problems of the local housing allowance being too low
  4. to lobby Government to allow local councils to be able to charge up to 200% Council Tax on second / holiday homes as they do in Wales 

Since 2018 there has been a significant increase in the number of people on the Housing waiting list, plus a significant decrease in the number of new rental properties available. 

Since 2002, the ratio of the average house price to average earnings has increased from 6.8 to over 10.  The average salary in the South Hams last year was recorded as £31k, while the average house price was £310k.  

A typical mortgage would therefore require a deposit of £170.5k, which is beyond the means of the vast majority of local people to save. 

There are currently 70 households registered on Devon Home Choice who would like to downsize. The Council already has a policy of providing one off payments to encourage downsizing, but the new policy being brought forward by Cllr Pearce could see that payment is increased to £1000 plus £500 per bedroom to up to £5000 in areas of high demand.

The full report detailing these initial steps and the recommendations Cllr Pearce will be asking of her Executive on the 14 October can be found here.

Or you can watch the meeting live on the Council's YouTube channel

Cllr Pearce added: "I am especially keen that our officers start to respond to the actions I laid out at Full Council and I am pleased to bring forward this new policy that will incentivise people to downsize." 

"Furthermore I will be asking the Executive to give Delegated Authority to Mr Brook, our Director of Place and Enterprise, to take all of the necessary steps to set up a Community Benefit Society. By giving Mr Brook this authority, he can crack on and get the job done.

"This is what we need now, direct action and this is just the start of the work we will action to tackle this crisis."

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