Letter in Guildford Dragon
Lib Dem ward councillor for Friary & St Nicolas
I have seen and heard comments that we Guildford Borough Counci], as an authority, are not filling places in some of the town centre residential developments, in particular the Barratt’s site in Walnut Tree Close, and implying that we therefore don’t have an urgent need for housing.
There are reasons why these newly built flats are taking time to fill.
Firstly, it is normal to phase the letting of properties in new developments simply for logistical reasons. There are 20 rented one bedroom flats in the development that are classified as “affordable” and let at what is referred to as “affordable rents”.
Affordable rents are normally 80% of a market rent or may be set at the equivalent Local Housing Allowance rate (Housing Benefit rate) if this is lower, which means the rents are currently some 40% higher than equivalent town centre council owned one-bedroomed flats.
The term “affordable” is a misrepresentation. Although lower than the market rent, these flats are beyond the reach of many with a regular but not highly paid job.
Additionally, new welfare reforms also affect younger single people and have made these flats unsuitable for those that will be under the age of 35 on April 1st 2018, as, after that date, any new tenants will only be entitled to less than 50% of the housing benefit than they can claim at present.
Given that over half of our single housing applicants are under 35, they would not be able to afford to live at this development.
The affordability issue means all those that have expressed interest in the flats have been subject to financial assessments to ensure that they can afford the rents and council tax as well as meet their day to day living expenses without getting into financial difficulty in the future.
Sadly it has been shown that although there are very many housing applicants that would love to live in these properties, they simply cannot afford to do so.
In a new development such as this it is right that the council spend time getting a good mix of tenants, and more importantly ensure that they can afford to meet the rent and other living.
The fact that it is taking time does not mean that there’s no urgent need for housing across the whole borough.