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29 October 2014

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    Over our Heads
    Kerry talks around the houses
    Kerry Pollard MP and St Albans Mayor Gordon Myland  plant a lavender bush.
    Kerry Pollard MP and St Albans Mayor Gordon Myland help plant a lavender bush.

    St Albans' MP Kerry Pollard has officially unveiled the latest key worker housing to be built for the area and spoke exclusively to Andy Smith about the housing situation in his constituency.


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    London Strategic Housing (LSH) is a charitable housing association that has been working in partnership with the NHS and other keyworker employers to provide quality affordable homes for rent across London and its environs since 1996.

    High quality furnished accommodation has been specifically designed and developed for nurses, teachers, junior doctors, transport workers and other keyworkers from both public and private sector organisations that contribute to maintaining core services.

    LSH has already invested £50 million to provide over 1500 homes for keyworkers and has a significant development pipeline.

    get in contact

    St Albans is in crisis, with property prices already high - and rising - there simply isn't enough affordable housing to go round.

    However, one new scheme based near the St Albans hospital hopes to relieve some of the problems the small but popular city currently experiences.

    London Strategic housing have built 14 new three and four bedroom houses and have refurbished 61 existing homes all available exclusively for key workers.

    Kerry Pollard MP for St Albans was on hand to help unveil the new properties and also took time out of a busy schedule to speak about the housing situation in his constituency.

    What do you think of this new key Worker housing in St Albans?

    This is fantastic, it's beyond my wildest dreams to be truthful. The nurses accommodation was here before was really crappy in comparison to what is available now.

    The new houses in Lavender Crescent.
    The new houses in Lavender Crescent

    These new houses are spacious, tailor made and individually designed for people to live in singly if they wish or commonly as well.

    They have all their own facilities including telephone lines and computer facilities and they are affordable at around £240 per month in rent.

    This will still leave the key workers with a good whack of their salary to live decently and not be scrimping all the time. It will be the first rung on the ladder for many of them.

    What needs to be done to make sure more key worker accommodation is built?

    I think that for every piece of land that becomes available, whether it is brown field or allocated green field site, a proportion of key worker housing must be provided. I think that it is inevitable now because we have identified that we can't keep our vital key services running because we can't recruit.

    We can't recruit because of the housing cost. It is only the housing cost - no more than that. Salaries can't be raised at such a level to cope, it's nonsensical.

    The average house price in St Albans is now £300K and you would need to be on a salary of about £65K to be able to afford to buy somewhere, it's crazy!

    What needs to be done to alleviate the housing crisis for other young people in St Albans?

    We need to build many more houses, I know there are those people who say we are trying to concrete over the south east but that is not the case at all. What we have got to do is to build houses that people can afford to live in. Ideally build more two up, two down properties and also terraced houses like people use to live in years ago.

    Refurbished houses in Lavender Crescent
    Refurbished houses in Lavender Crescent

    We need to move away from the five bedroom, two jacuzzi, four garage houses that take up loads of land, when on the same space we could be building three or four modest size houses which then become affordable.

    I meet in the House of Commons every six months for round table discussions with developers, housing planners and housing professionals. The message I give constantly and have done for the last five years is smaller units, pack them in tightly so that people can afford it.

    What about young professionals who are not key workers but are still living at home with their parents?

    The average age for first time buyers in St Albans is 33 years old, five years ago it was 27 years old.

    These people are still living at home up to the age of 33, they have money to spend because generally they have good careers earning between £25k and 35K but this is still not enough to get on the first rung of the ladder.

    That is why it is important to have schemes like this and schemes where they offer shared equity housing.

    I've got seven children and my youngest son has moved into an Aldwyck part rented scheme in Harpenden with his partner. It is only a small two bedroom property but it is their own and they are so proud. They both have good jobs but don't earn substantial wages and could not afford anything in St Albans, but they can just about afford this scheme.

    Looking to the future, surely there will come a time where there's simply not enough housing for the entire population, what will happen then?

    We will never ever solve the problem totally. It has been tried before by building houses in the north of the country and trying to encourage people to move up there. But if the jobs are not in place and vital bits of the economy are missing then people won't want to move there, even though their quality of life would be far greater.

    My number four son lives in Newcastle and has just bought a three bedroom semi detached house for £56K. He has a foreign holiday every year and he and his partner have a good quality of life and that's just the due to living in the North East. But if he was still working here in St Albans he would have to be living at home in my house.

    One of the things that the government are trying to do is move parts of the civil service away from the South East. This has got to be a good idea and the way forward and with modern technology for goodness sake why can't we do that!?

    Are you a nurse, healthcare worker, teacher, train driver, bus driver, fire fighter, etc? If so, you could be eligible for accomodation with affordable rent.

    Do the Key Worker eligibility test >>

    Your comments

    Katy, St Albans Friday, 30-Jul-2004 09:29:20 BST
    How exactly do they become affordable? You could probably build an estate of sheds in St Albans and they'd go for £100k each. Well - that's an exaggeration but you know what I mean. In this area, 'packing them in tightly' doesn't make them affordable. It doesn't work like that round here.
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