Creating more homes for local people

Tackling the housing shortage

As we continue to invest in existing homes and communities, we’re also committed to providing more new homes. This article looks at the state of the housing market, why homes of all types are urgently needed and what we’re doing to help tackle the housing crisis.

It’s no secret that the country doesn’t have enough homes for everyone. According to research carried out by the National Housing Federation, a million people in England are on waiting lists for social housing, 3.6 million are living in overcrowded homes and 2.5 million are unable to afford their rent or mortgage.

In an average week, our Homefinder Team helps 27 people or families to secure a rented home with us from around 130 applications for each available property.

Housing shortage

Like other places across the country, Bolton has a shortage of high-quality, genuinely affordable homes to both rent and buy. This means that thousands of people can’t get onto the housing ladder. According to payscale.com, the average salary in Bolton in 2019 was £23,000. With an average house in the town costing more than £162,000 according to Rightmove, even with a 10% deposit, it would mean borrowing more than six times the average income.

As a result, home ownership among the under 35s is less than half of what it was 20 years ago. And people are being forced into the private rental market, where landlords can charge a premium.

Crucially, this also means that people who can’t afford to rent a home with a private landlord are stuck. With social housing waiting lists getting longer, people are either living in overcrowded homes, sofa surfing or in temporary accommodation. These are the ‘hidden’ homeless – the hundreds of families in the borough who live in hostels, bed and breakfasts, and with friends or family. More affordable homes are urgently needed. In 2017-18, just 6,463 social housing properties were built in England, down from 30,000 a decade before.

Our approach to developing homes

There are thousands of people on the waiting list for a home with a housing association in Bolton. Many have young children and need a home desperately. Bolton also has an ageing population, increasing the need for modern homes to support good health. We want to meet this demand, keep communities together and help people into home ownership. Unless we build and acquire more new homes for rent and shared ownership, people will continue to live in unsuitable properties, overcrowded conditions, be at risk of homelessness and be priced out of the housing market.

For these reasons we’ve committed to deliver on the ‘memorandum of understanding’ pledge we co-signed with Bolton Council in December 2018. So far we’ve made good progress with our aim of providing 1,400 new affordable homes by April 2024 in Bolton and beyond. We’re also continuing to invest in and improve our existing homes.

While our focus will be on providing homes for rent, we’re also developing housing for shared ownership through our Stonecross Homes brand. We’re offering a greater choice of affordable housing and helping people onto the property ladder in areas where market prices tend to be higher.

Shared ownership offers a more affordable way to buy a home and there’s a demand for it in the borough. As a not-for-profit provider, any surplus we make from the sale of these homes will be used in ways to benefit current tenants and build more affordable homes. The government’s funding plans for affordable housing after 2021 are unknown, so we have to look at different ways of generating income.

Housing explained

A home for social rent: this is a property with a rent set at a ‘social’ rate and is determined by a formula set by the government. It takes into account the number of bedrooms in the home, the value of the property and local average earnings.

A home for affordable rent: this is a property with a rent set at an ‘affordable’ rate, usually 80% of the local average market rent level (or typically what private landlords might charge). Because average house prices are lower in Bolton compared to other places, an 80% rent is, in real terms, likely to compare favourably with social and affordable rents elsewhere.

Whether it’s a social or affordable rent rate, Bolton at Home rents are low compared to other registered housing providers in Bolton and lower still when compared across Greater Manchester.

Our new homes in Bolton will usually be for affordable rent. This is because funding them is based on the amount of grant subsidy that we can get from the government for developing here. We want our new homes to be as affordable as possible for people. Where we can, we’ll try to make them available to rent at local Housing Allowance rates. This would cap rents at a level below the affordable rent rate.

A home for shared ownership: this is a property that can be part bought and part rented. A buyer can buy a share of the property, usually between 35% and 75%, and then rent the part they don’t own at a reduced rate. They then have the option to buy a bigger share in the property after 12 months.

Partnership working

To create the homes that are needed in Bolton and Greater Manchester, we need to work in partnership with others. As well as having a good relationship with Bolton Council, we’re also involved in a number of strategic partnerships – all committed to making the region a better place for people to live.

As a member of Greater Manchester Housing Providers, we’re contributing to the group’s ‘Ambition to Deliver’ which is working towards creating 16,000 new affordable homes across the city region by 2024.

We’re also a member of Bolton Community Homes (BCH), a group of eight social housing providers who, together, provide more than 24,000 affordable homes to rent in Bolton.

Andrew Brown, Chair of BCH and Regional Director of Onward Homes, sums up the current housing situation by saying: “We have to make sure that people have access to quality affordable housing and stop those who can’t afford to rent or buy homes from becoming homeless.

“To achieve this, each housing provider needs to develop new homes and invest in home improvement programmes to maintain tenants’ living standards. As a collective group of landlords who genuinely care about communities in Bolton, we’re committed to making sure the town is a vibrant place for children and adults to grow older.”

If you have a story to share, please email news@boltonathome.org.uk