“The last five years have seen a low level of house building, less than half the new buildings that are actually needed",
Median gross weekly pay for full-time employees, 2014 in West Dorset is £506 (Residency based figures) or £26,312 pa. In Weymouth and Portland the figure is £469 or £24,388 pa.These figures are taken from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, 2014, Office for National Statistics The reason for reproducing these statistics, is an article in today’s (15th October 2015) “Independent” under the headline “David Cameron defends 'starter homes' that only the richest can afford”. Now, admittedly he was talking about London where the average house price is £522,000 and adding that his previously quoted figure of “starter homes” at £450,000 was an “upper limit” and he would prefer to see a “starter home” at a significantly lower price. No doubt thousands of people in London would agree with that bit. However, the fact remains that anyone attempting to obtain one of these starter homes would still have to have a salary of around £77,000 pa. There are many people who earn nowhere near that figure.
However, Cameron and his out of touch colleagues will have to come to terms with the unpalatable fact the United Kingdom exists well beyond the area laying within the confines of the M25. The housing crisis is not a problem restricted to London or the Home Counties or even to England. It is a nationwide scandal and has been brought about by decades of neglect by successive governments and has resulted in tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people being unable to own a home or even afford to rent in the private or social housing sectors. The accepted definition of a “starter home”, is a normal home with a 20% discount applied to the price, which theoretically, stimulates demand, increases the building of more houses and makes houses even cheaper. Of course, it does nothing of the sort.
The housing crisis is a national problem which has solutions (if we have the political will to implement such solutions) but solutions which may be different in different areas. Take West Dorset for example. A predominately rural area with much farmland, little industry, a great many villages and hamlets, a number of Seaside resorts along its world famous Jurassic Coast, many “second homes” and a housing shortage for ownership or rent. In West Dorset, the average cost of a home (flat, semi detached or detached) is, £283,402 (Land Registry statistics for 2014). Even with the application of Cameron’s 20% discount figure, the price for a “starter home” would be £226,721. Close to 11 times the annual salary levels in West Dorset and nearer to 12 times in Weymouth and Portland. In the rented housing sector, the situation is, if anything, even worse with high rent levels in the private sector and barely affordable rents in the social housing markets, particularly where cuts to housing and other benefits are having a significant effect on household budgets.
The crisis in housing is a difficult situation now and one which will become even more challenging over the years to come. To go some way address this, the Dorchester and District Labour Party, will be hosting a Public meeting on the 25 November 2015 7:00pm - in the Corn Exchange, Dorchester to discuss this and associated housing issues. There will be speakers from various interested organisations, with a “Question and answer” session and also an opportunity for you to “have your say” on this important issue.
Housing is a matter which affects us all and is too important to be left to others.