is the current housing situation in St Albans?
main problem we have is one of affordability. St Albans is a very
attractive area for people to live. House prices are very high in
the district and it makes it very difficult for people on an average
wage to get into the housing market. We did a housing survey in
2002 and that showed that the minimum income at the time to access
the housing market was around £35K per year.
is the District Council doing to combat this situation?
We adopted supplementary planning guidance on affordable housing
in March 2004.
means we've increased the percentage of affordable housing that
we seek to negotiate on development sites from 25 per cent to 35
are also spending some of our own money in subsidising affordable
housing through housing associations. For example we are using a
housing association to purchase five properties on the open market,
which will be used for affordable housing.
are also looking to develop housing on our own land where ever we
can. We have a site in Wheathampsted which has planning permission
to build three affordable houses. We have transferred the land free
of charge to the housing association to assist in the delivery of
there still council housing as such and how do people become eligible?
Yes, there is still council housing. We have just over 5,000
properties that are owned and managed by the council.
have to apply to us to go on our waiting list and their housing
needs are assessed.
currently have over 1,600 applicants on the housing register who
are not currently housed by us and over 750 who are housed by us
but wish to transfer.
are also 117 families currently housed in temporary accommodation
who we hope to find permanent homes for within nine months.
housing and all affordable housing is allocated according to the
need, so we look at things like a person's current housing circumstances,
their family, their income and what they are looking for.
is affordable housing and how does the District Council fit in?
Housing associations are independent of the council. They are
not for profit organisations and are registered by the Housing Corporation
which is a government organisation.
main differences are based on governance; housing associations are
managed by a board of directors who are not paid, whereas the council
stock is managed directly by the council and the policies are set
by the councillors.
are other differences concerning having a housing association tenancy
and a council tenancy, like the right to buy.
tenants have the right to buy, but housing associations tenants
only have the right to acquire.
discount for purchase is not as high for right to acquire and some
houses are excluded from sale.
the rent levels are possibly slightly higher in housing association
properties but we are all working towards something called 'Target
Rent' which aims to bring all rentals in line with each other.
social housing just available for Key Workers?
There is something called key worker housing which has really
come to importance in the last two or three years and the government
has set aside specific funding for these schemes. They have a programme
called key worker living.
Hertfordshire we have a zone agent for key worker housing who are
Lea Valley Homes. They act as a one stop shop for key workers.
worker housing is part of an affordable housing solution but it
is aimed at specific employee groups, including teachers, police
officers, fire officers, healthcare workers and district council
District Council employees are included in our definition of key
workers but they are not included in the government's version. We
can only house local authority staff on schemes which haven't been
funded by the government.
is housing, both council and affordable, arranged in order of priority?
A lot of housing association properties are offered to people
on the council's waiting list because we have something called nomination
for the first letting on a new development, the council would have
100 per cent nomination rights. So everybody that's housed there
will have been nominated through the local authority.
usually happens is that percentage then drops over time to 75 per
cent. Housing associations keep the other 25 per cent which gives
them some freedom of moving their own tenants around.
they all allocate their housing to people in housing need. Some
housing associations keep separate waiting lists, but some don't
a rely solely on the local authority to nominate people.
all of them will operate an allocation policy which people can ask
for to see exactly how they sort housing needs.
the council's requirements for housing asylum seekers?
don't have a specific requirement for housing asylum seekers in
St Albans; we are not one of the local authorities that has actually
been designated to receive them.
last time I was asked a question about that, I think we had probably
housed three families over the last four years that you could say
were asylum seekers. But they would have had local connections with
are not an authority that has an allocation of asylum seekers we
have to house.
house prices continuing to rise, do you think that the supply and
demand for housing can ever be met?
housing need survey we did in 2002 showed that we had an annual
shortfall of 897 affordable homes, that is a target that we cannot
hope to meet.
the current district plan, which is very old, the target for affordable
houses is 200 and that is not a target we've met.
current year we will actually have over 200 new affordable houses
coming on stream, but built by housing associations with developers.
Napsbury site is going to provide 145 of those, but we also have
a development off Burnside which is on local authority land providing
36 properties for rent.
old Godfery Davis site will also provide 25 units of affordable
housing. There is also a key worker scheme on Camp Road which will
provide 22 properties.
do you see the future of housing in the district? What needs to
think the main problem for the local authority in the future is
trying to ensure there is a supply of affordable housing coming
forward each year.
are negotiating with developers but the affordable housing provision
does need funding.
government are currently about to announce their spending review
so we don't know what's in for housing in the future.
has been a commitment to key worker housing which I think will continue,
but what is important is that you don't forget the other housing
hope that funding will come forward for rented housing and for shared
ownership as well. This does meet the need of quite a few people
who can't purchase 100 per cent but can get on the property ladder
by buying a percentage.