£8bn pot of cash to ease housing crisis

Councils and other housing providers in East Anglia are going head-to-head to bid for a nationwide £8bn pot of cash to help tackle the region's growing affordable homes crisis.

Councils and other housing providers in East Anglia are going head-to-head to bid for a nationwide £8bn pot of cash to help tackle the region's growing affordable homes crisis.

The government wants to see 95,000 low-cost homes built across the country from 2008-2011 - with the number in the East of England likely to more than double to 9,000 a year by the end of that period.

But despite the prospect of huge investment and a major building programme, rural campaigners have issued a stark warning that there will never be enough new properties to meet the spiralling demand.

And there is no guarantee for any area to get money, as all councils, housing associations and so-called registered social landlords have to compete for the £8bn from the Housing Corporation's National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP).

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It is hoped the East of England region, which includes Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, will secure an overall investment of £790m. Projections are for 6,800 low-

cost homes built regionally in 2008/09, 7,900 in 2009/10 and 9,000 in 2010/11.

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However, a new study says the region needs 11,000 new affordable homes per year. In 2005/6 4,042 homes were built.

Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC) said the "crisis" triggered by the unbridgeable gap is reverberating particularly hard in rural Norfolk, where communities are being emptied of young people who can no longer afford to live there.

Geoffrey Leigh, of the NRCC, said: "I do not think we will ever meet the demand. We want to get to the point where at least there is the potential

for local people to be able to find affordable housing in their community, whether it is to purchase or to rent.

"It leads to an absence of a certain age group because nobody can afford to stay around anymore".

He added: "It is certainly a crisis in rural Norfolk, especially as property prices have gone up astronomically and there is generally a very low wage and developers can less afford to build low-cost homes.

"You have large numbers of young people having to live with their parents or sofa-surfing with friends, which makes life very difficult in terms of getting a job or maintaining a relationship.

"It can also have an economic impact as employers can not find people they want to employ if there is a dearth of young people with the skills they are looking for."

Susan Barker, chairman of the housing and sustainable communities panel for the East of England Regional Assembly, blamed part of the shortfall on Margaret Thatcher's government for allowing the sale of the old council housing stock in the 1980s.

In Breckland, there have been 17 bids for a total of £6.5m, which would allow an extra 138 new affordable homes to be built. Waveney is hoping to get £3.5m to pay for an extra 89 low-cost homes.

In Breckland, there are 2,748 on the housing waiting list, and the figure for Waveney is 2,500. Other council are not releasing figures on their bids until they are decided on next year.

Ann Steward, executive member for environmental services at Breckland, said: "This award will be great news for the district."

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