Wealden District Council’s cabinet has approved its new housing strategy which identifies the need to boost the supply of housing in the area.
It highlights the importance for smaller properties, shared ownership, shared accommodation options and specialist housing to meet local needs.
“Our research shows the negative impact, both economically and socially, of a lack of housing and the result of living in sub-standard properties,” said Councillor Ray Cade, cabinet member for housing. “This authority has a leading role in the provision of quality, healthy and safe housing in our community.”
The National Planning Policy Framework set a requirement to build 1,231 new homes a year and the Wealden Housing Strategy 2020-25 accepts the need for more homes to be built in the district.
To help increase the number of affordable houses in the district, the council’s planning policy calls for all new developments of over 10 houses to include 35% affordable homes but developers are allowed to argue for a reduction in this share on the grounds that it would make the whole project uneconomical.
Councillor Anne Newton, cabinet member for planning & development, said the council tries to persuade developers to fulfil their affordable housing obligations and its website publishes the viability tests developers produce. Through the Local Plan process, the council will seek to ensure that developers who are able to reduce their 35% obligation, have to make up the difference by providing smaller properties which would be suitable for first-time buyers.
Wealden is the most expensive area in East Sussex meaning that homeownership is out of reach for many households. Its average property price is £377,858 compared to the East Sussex average of £317,192. Based on local earnings, a Wealden resident needs to borrow 11.5 times their income to buy a property in the area with affordability remaining a key issue.
In 2017, Wealden set up a wholly-owned development company, Sussex Weald Homes to meet the demand of first-time buyers or those looking to downsize. Its first development was completed this year in Crowborough which includes properties for shared ownership and affordable properties for rent.
The Housing Strategy also tackles housing quality and the council is continuing to improve its own stock, as well as working with private landlords to ensure they are aware of the regulations that affect them.
Housing has a key role to play in meeting the council’s zero carbon commitment and it is currently planning how to meet this commitment within its own housing stock and continuing to support the private sector to minimise heating costs where possible.
Wealden’s new Housing Strategy also highlights the importance of the council’s role in supporting individuals and communities through supporting access to private rented accommodation, services for rough sleepers, and using a tenancy sustainment officer to help tenants and landlords in the private rented sector resolve any issues that may lead to homelessness. Additionally, the council supports residents to access services and advice, as well as delivering projects such as Street Learning and providing funding to local organisations.