The price of housing is one of West Dorset’s biggest challenges. The affordability of housing, especially for young families, is a real problem here. We have some of the highest housing prices in the country and the gap between wages and house prices is huge.
Affordable housing targets in West Dorset have been missed year on year – yet meeting those targets is the District Council’s number one priority! Now, with the combination of a reduced housing grant, the housing benefit cap and the requirement for tenants to pay 80% of market rent, homelessness is likely to increase. When the promotion of building affordable homes was removed from the West Dorset Housing Strategy in 2013 Ros successfully campaigned to reinstate it.
Now the Government has set aside £25 million for CLT builds in rural areas. In 2012 Ros worked with officers at West Dorset District Council to ensure that the £2 million repaid to the council by the Buckland Newton CLT would be available to other Community Land Trusts in the district. This money has already helped the Symene CLT, which is seeking both to build 10 affordable homes in Symondsbury near Bridport and to develop affordable homes at Toller Porcurum and Marshwood.
In 2012 Ros founded the Bridport Community Land Trust. This trust is looking at projects to support affordable homes and community toilets in Bridport and at a proposal for low-cost open market housing. This proposal would see affordable market housing being made available to the local community. She is also a member of the Symene project team.
Ros has also begun work with the inspirational Dorset, Devon & Somerset Community Land Trust Network. They are offering support to CLTs throughout the region with the aim of creating a West Dorset-wide Community Land Trust Loan & Mutual Finance Network.
“This will encourage CLTs to build up funds through community shares and philanthropic donation; they need to provide a framework so they can cross subsidise each other’s schemes. One of the big problems with CLT builds is financing the early development stages – but this may be a solution. We are working hard to create the necessary framework at the moment.
“We need to persuade government to free up money so that councils can work with social landlords to increase our housing stock. Until that happens Community Land Trusts are the most likely way to build new affordable housing in West Dorset. However replenishing our housing stock is a constant battle while the Right to Acquire allows tenants to buy their social rented homes at a large discount. This takes homes out of the affordable housing pot. I believe that this very damaging policy is one of the major causes of the housing crisis and needs to be reversed.”