On Tuesday, Chelmsford’s city councillors voted to declare a Housing Crisis and called on the Government to do more.
A motion moved by Councillor Chris Davidson, Cabinet Member for Fairer Chelmsford, said, “The housing charity Shelter says, ‘We live in a country that is feeling the effects of 40 years of failure in housing policy’ and believes there are ‘six million households whose right to a home is either denied or under threat.’
“As the Prime Minister said, we have nowhere near enough homes in the right places.”
Skyrocketing housing costs
In Chelmsford, the price of an average house has risen by 54% in the last eight years, far higher than general inflation at just over 15%. The price of an average home in Chelmsford is now £380,000 and market rents have risen by nearly 20% over the last two years.
Cllr Davidson said, “There is little doubt at the national level that this country faces a housing crisis. The Government has a target of 300,000 new homes a year – a level that has not been achieved since the 1960s. Shelter has identified six million households whose right to a home is either denied or under threat – that is 9% of the UK population.
“When demand exceeds supply, those of us who are better off can find somewhere to live. It’s the least well-off who cannot find a home that meets their needs.
“Buying a house in Chelmsford is unaffordable for the majority of residents – prices have been rising at three or four times the rate of inflation generally. . . We know that many young adults are stuck living with their parents, many when they are into their 30s, or sofa-surfing with friends and relatives, or who have simply given up and gone to live somewhere else, somewhere that is not where they want to be, not where their friends and family and loved ones are, not where their job prospects are. People putting their lives on hold in the hope that things may improve.
“We have a responsibility to try to help our residents who cannot find a home.”
Hundreds of homeless households
Over 300 Chelmsford households are now in temporary accommodation arranged by the City Council. Over 800 households are on the Housing Register, waiting for a permanent home that meets their needs to become available.
When there’s not enough homes of the right type, at best, a family needing a four-bedroom home is likely to wait more than three years in temporary accommodation after becoming homeless. A similar family who are overcrowded or in unsuitable accommodation will wait far longer on the Housing Register before they can hope that their needs will be met.
Practical action to address the housing crisis
In declaring the crisis, Chelmsford City Council welcomed its emerging Housing Strategy, which contains a vision statement that “everyone can reasonably aspire to having a home that meets their needs”, bringing hope to those whose lives are on hold.
The motion also called on the Government to:
- Refocus planning law to enable local authorities to respond to local housing need, abandoning its First Homes policy because that will only raise prices and do nothing to build more homes and permitting land to be allocated for social housing.
- Provide more resources to support the acquisition of land for social housing.
- Empower local authorities like Chelmsford, with no directly owned social housing stock, to influence the allocation of grants to housing associations and others so they better meet local housing needs.
- Allocate Chelmsford to the same Local Housing Allowance area as Brentwood, increasing the current levels of allowance so they more closely reflect Chelmsford’s housing costs.
- Urgently introduce measures to address the shortages of skilled construction workers so that the building of homes is not limited by this factor.
You can read the Motion in full on the Chelmsford City Council website.