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Norfolk MP calls for more work to address affordable housing need

PUBLISHED: 00:01 12 October 2012

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon.

ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC vÉÄövǬ© 2010

Fears have been raised that young people are being priced out of staying in rural East Anglia, despite a government programme to build more affordable homes.

A Norfolk MP called for more to be done to help people get on the housing ladder in the villages and towns where they grow up following concerns about higher social housing rents and doubts over the delivery of thousands of new low-cost homes.

A new report by the Commons public accounts committee today raises “serious concerns” about the impact of financing the government’s Affordable Homes Programme, which aims to build 80,000 new social homes by March 2015.

MPs have welcomed the idea of constructing new affordable properties, but questioned the reduction in government grants for new homes and the introduction of higher housing association rents to pay for them.

Concern has also been raised that sites for half of the new homes targeted by the Department for Communities and Local Government have not yet been found or gone through the planning process.

Government funding of more than £30m has already been set aside for housing associations to build 968 new affordable homes in Norfolk and 1,037 in Suffolk.

However, members of public accounts committee fear that families living on the breadline will be priced out of living in the new homes because housing associations have been allowed to raise rents to up to 80pc of open market rents to pay for them. They have also questioned the logic of the policy, which will increase the housing benefit bill by a predicted £1.4bn over the next 30 years.

It comes after the government reduced the average grant for new affordable homes to £20,000 per home - a third of that under the previous programme.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, a member of the committee, said the homes programme was a good start, but there was much more work to do.

“It is welcome that the Affordable Homes Programme will build 80,000 new homes by 2015. However, more must be done in rural areas where young people are being priced out of the villages and market towns in which they grew up. This has a knock-on effect on the local economy, where the lack of young people can affect the viability of local pubs and shops. The government needs to find ways to make more land available for starter homes and to inject greater competition into the housing market,” he said.

A total of £1.8bn of government money is being granted to social housing providers over the four year programme, which if all built, would only address 2pc of the unmet housing need in England.

See Friday’s EDP for more.

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