Five-year plan to tackle housing need
An innovative five-year strategy for tackling Boston's future housing needs has been approved.
One of its aims is to make better use of accommodation already available, including better use of unused rooms in properties already occupied and a sharing scheme for young and old to support one another.
The strategy, which will remain in place until 2017 and has been developed at a time of unprecedented population change in Boston and major change in social policy by Government, aims to help deliver new affordable homes and maintain, adapt and improve existing housing and support vulnerable residents.
Cllr Mike Gilbert, Boston Borough Council's portfolio holder for housing property and community, said: "We have to accept the demographics of an ageing population, more single people and fewer married couples will change the demand for housing from the typical two or three-bedroom semi, which is under occupied, to a property the space within which better use is made.
"Rent-a-room schemes offer a way of tackling not only a housing problem and the silting up of hostel accommodation but loneliness and a declining living standard for those with space to rent."
He told Monday's meeting of the council, which adopted the strategy, that market forces driven by short-term profitability have rendered the housing market incapable of delivering new housing at an affordable rate.
"Add to this the rental markets almost historical inability to adequately balance the housing needs of housing consumers and housing providers and we have a problem which results in a market with too few homes. Of those there are, they are often beyond the pocket of many consumers and what is available is, in too many cases, substandard," he said.
He said it would be very easy to have a housing strategy which simply concentrated on new-build properties, however to meet the needs of all those with housing needs large areas of countryside would have to be concreted over and builders of non-profitable starter or affordable homes would need subsidies.
The new strategy will explore every funding opportunity to help deliver new homes and bring empty homes back into use.
Homelessness prevention remains a priority and the council will maintain schemes to help provide private rented housing, interest free loans of up to £750, help for victims of domestic violence to carry on living safely in their homes, free legal representation at repossession hearings and mediation within families. During 2011/12 these actions prevented 177 cases of potential homelessness.
Where privately-owned properties require improvement a small works loan scheme, up to a maximum of £5,000, is to be implemented to deal with serious hazards and adaptions will continue for disabled and elderly people to continue living in their homes.
A scheme to licence all houses in multiple occupation is to be introduced to ensure these properties are well managed and meet minimum requirements.
Cllr Gilbert added: "Our communities are seeing a long-term move away from retail to on-line shopping creating opportunities to review how we shape our town centres; perhaps reversing a trend of moving people out that started in the 1950s.
"This creates housing and a more vibrant town centre without the ecological costs of green-field development."
Andy Fisher, head of housing, property and communities, said: "The purpose of the strategy is to address housing needs in the widest sense and it will require that the council and its partners review many existing policies. The plight of a single mother with ten children struggling in a Boston home not suited to the size of her family was reported in the national media only last week and shows that the level of housing needs faced locally range from the low level to the extreme."
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