At our board away day in January, we reflected on the current lack of affordable housing across Oxfordshire, and ever since it seems I have been on a personal mission to do whatever I can to support those dedicated to finding solutions to this particular social problem.
The reasons why we find ourselves in this critical situation are many and varied, but the loss of great swathes of social housing is certainly one, and I do believe the situation is only going to get worse; because regardless of the government's efforts with starter home incentives and Right to Buy policies, these all seem to fall short on delivering permanently affordable housing in perpetuity.
Most recently, I have had the pleasure of meeting with a group of incredibly motivated and socially inspired individuals who appear to have a solution that really could deliver, especially in an area like Oxford city and the county where land costs are extremely high - the latter being the root cause of high house prices.
High land costs make it very challenging, if not impossible, to build affordable homes. However, the group I mention have a simple solution that would appear to get round this, and that is to remove land from the market and hold it permanently in a community land trust specifically for the provision of permanently affordable homes.
The land would be owned by the trust, which would in turn lease the land to clusters of local people (set up as co-ops, co-housing, custom-build or self-build) who are committed to building permanently affordable homes. The buildings would be financed by the part-sale or rental of the homes. The affordability would be protected i) by the land being removed from the equation and ii) by ensuring there is no right to buy, whether rented or part-owned.
Ideally the land for these homes would be donated to the trust. However, being realistic this won't always be possible, so the trust will also need to be able to pay for land, and in some cases, as in the city of Oxford where there is very little land, they will need to compete on the open market to buy it.
Market forces suggest we will have a fight to create a sustainable supply of such land / property, but I certainly feel we simply have to explore this idea further, and I am willing to commit my support to try and make it happen!
I also hope that here in Oxfordshire we can establish a link between inspired philanthropy and the housing needs of the 21st century, and go some way to creating a legacy similar to that in London started by William Peabody and William Sutton in 1900's.
Should you wish to join me, please do get in touch - I'd love to hear from you.
Improving access into private renting for single homeless people The private rented sector is required to play an increasingly important role in helping end homelessness. For lots of single homeless people it’s often the only housing option available to them. We know that with the right support in place for both landlords and tenants it can work well as a long term housing solution for people moving on from homelessness. Too many people who are ready to move on after the devastation of homelessness however, encounter unnecessary financial barriers and locked doors. Our Crisis Skylight services frequently report the problems , including the willingness of landlords to let to homeless households and difficulties saving for deposits, rent in advance and letting agency fees. These problems are particularly pronounced in markets where demand for homes is especially high.