The Inside the Council column with Councillor Susan Press
Back in the day when I was young and getting fed-up of people stealing my milk in shared bedsit accommodation buying your own home was an affordable option if you had a pretty ordinary full-time job.
I earned just £9,000 a year as a junior reporter but was nevertheless able to buy a two-bedroomed flat on the edge of Manchester city centre for the princely sum of £24,000.
Fast forward to 2019, a bijou flat in Manchester costs around £300,000 and buying just isn’t the option that it used to be for the younger generation or indeed for older folk for that matter.
People’s circumstances change and a person of any age would have to be earning at least £35,000 annually – that’s £9,000 more than the average wage in Calderdale – to stand a chance of getting on the property ladder.
In many parts of Calderdale, the average house price at £162,000 is six times the average income.
And thanks to the imposition of the bedroom tax and cuts to housing benefit by the Conservative Government decent homes for rent are much harder to come by than they ever were.
Particularly here in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge where many are simply forced to move elsewhere.
Margaret Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ legislation in the 1980s may have made happy property owners of millions of people previously unable to get a mortgage.
The bad news was it also removed millions of homes from local authority housing stock and created a housing crisis across the UK which urgently needs addressing.
In Calderdale demand far exceeds supply and private sector rents are at an absolute premium.
So we urgently need to build houses and are absolutely committed to working with organisations large and small to deliver them.
Last year saw the launch of our biggest housing project for a long time – working with Together Housing to build at least 500 new homes across the borough over the next five years via the Calderdale Together Investment Partnership.
These will be built not only for rent but also for affordable purchase through schemes such as shared ownership, offering opportunities for economic renewal and regeneration of communities.
The fact remains that renting is the most affordable and practical option for many people and we welcome the work of organisations such as the Community Land Trust, which is now set to start building six independent living bungalows at affordable rents for older people on Birks Lane, Walsden.
The £800,000 scheme is in partnership with Todmorden-based almshouse charity John Eastwood Homes and Calderdale Council and it is hopefully just the start of a fruitful relationship with the CLT and others who can help us provide more homes at a fair rent for young and old in Calderdale.
It is going to take time and commitment to make up for the years of neglect by national government but in the years ahead it is the council’s goal to provide affordable, accessible housing for everyone who needs it.