Affordable Housing is a Serious Issue - Mendip Matters - 26th January

With local property prices rising, limited new housing, and a low wage economy, affordable housing is a serious issue facing communities, and in particular, our young people.

But the term ‘affordable housing’  is a much-used one, and means different things to different people.

In planning terms, for example, it means; a range of affordability from 80% of market price, shared ownership with a registered provider (Housing Association), to housing for social rent (based on a national formula and local wage rates).

Many councils, including Mendip, have a policy in their Local Plan about the number and type of affordable housing offers there must be on new housing developments over 10 homes. Mendip’s planning policy DP11 clearly states the principle of 30% affordable housing, with 4 out of  5 of the 30% for social rent. There are exceptions, with the figure rising to 40% in Wells and in rural areas.

Developers can argue that the affordable housing requirement can make their sites unviable. The role of the council is to robustly review the viability evidence and determine an equitable and fair number affordable homes.

New housing is always an emotive issue and over recent years Mendip has been given increasing government targets for new homes.

Currently, new housing construction has been stalled in the western half of the district as excess phosphates are affecting water quality around some areas within the Somerset Levels and Moors Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

Phosphates come from human and animal sewage – and even washing powder! Until the contamination issue is resolved, new planning applications are stalled, so the housing we are seeing built today comes from approved applications prior to the phosphate ruling.

But it’s not all about property prices and numbers built. There is the question of sustainability too.

At Mendip, a Net Zero Carbon Toolkit is being introduced to provide technical guidance to help developers and homeowners move towards net zero carbon building. This is especially important as energy used to heat and power our buildings in the District accounts for 54% of our carbon emissions.

Plus, the Council is currently consulting on enhancing Local Plan Policy DP7, which covers the design and amenity of new developments.  It sets out our expectations on energy efficiency, sustainable construction and renewable energy. Comments are invited between 14th January 2022 and 11th February 2022.   It can be viewed at where a consultation response form is also available to download.

And if you have any questions for me, then please do get in touch on email: [email protected] or via Facebook: @RosWyke.

Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council

Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].

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