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19,000 plots earmarked for housing in county, while city could get cash to kick-start building
CONSTRUCTION workers are building nearly 20,000 homes across Oxfordshire to help house the county’s growing population.
The Oxford Mail can today reveal at least 19,027 plots have been earmarked for housing over the next 15 years.
They all have planning permission granted, planning permission pending, or are proposed as potential future development sites.
Meanwhile,Oxford was today named in a list of 10 UK cities recommended for funding to kick-start homebuilding in a report by think tank Centre for Cities.
It topped the list of cities, rated by affordability, which the Centre for Cities thinks the Government should spend money on to deliver housing.
The report highlights cities where the £570m Get Britain Building programme could be spent. It aims to give money to developers or councils to press ahead with schemes which have planning permission, but have stalled because there isn’t money available to complete them.
While the scale of housing development has raised concerns about roads, schools and hospitals, for others it is a much-needed opportunity to house more people in need. There are more than 6,000 people on Oxford’s housing register, and this year the city’s social housebuilding target has been missed.
Only 18 social homes were completed in the city in 2012 – 182 shy of the city council’s target of 200 – but councillors and officers say the future outlook is less gloomy.
The council now demands financial contributions from small developments of nine homes or less, and requires at least 50 per cent of larger schemes to be made up of affordable properties.
The contributions are calculated for each development, based on the size and scale.
It also requires cash from developers of student properties, calculated in the same way.
Head of planning Michael Crofton-Briggs said: “We have seen lots of smaller developments, but we have been having pre-application discussions with a few developers about some larger sites, so hopefully things will move on.”
Lib Dem leader Jean Fooks said: “It does seem to be a rather dramatic failure, and it’s all very well for Labour to complain about social housing when at the end of 13 years of Labour Government they ended up with less than they started with.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said the lack of affordable housing in Oxfordshire was a “desperate” situation.
He said: “I write to constituents every day who are in unsatisfactory or overcrowded accommodation and cannot get the social housing they need.
“The key thing is to get them built and get them built within a scale that can actually meet the local housing need, and once we have got this we will see if we need more.
“My fear is that we have not got enough houses in central Oxfordshire and I remain convinced it is necessary to build more homes on suitable sites on the edge of Oxford, rather than having all the homes in Bicester, Witney, Didcot and Grove and people commuting into the city.”
The shortage of social housing in Oxford is a problem for many, including Derren Taylor.
The 42-year-old has been in private accommodation in Summertown, paid for with housing benefit, for two years after splitting up with the mother of his daughter.
Mr Taylor had his spleen removed in 1996 and is allergic to penicillin, so he regularly suffers from periods of intense illness, which means he can’t work.
And now he’s facing eviction, and said he can’t find private landlords who will accept him. He has been waiting for a council flat since March last year.
He said: “I’m quite lucky because I’m paying £650 a month for a one-bedroom flat, and that is covered by housing benefit.
“But my landlady wants me out and I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.”
Oxford City Council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “We are aware of his case and have given him advice.
“Demand for social housing far outweighs supply in Oxford, with over 6,000 people on the housing register and only around 500 available lettings per year from the council or housing associations.”
West Oxfordshire District Council has a social housing target of 150 over two years, which it expects to reach next year, and Cherwell District Council aims for 100 each year. It would not say whether it had achieved this.
The Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire district councils would not reveal their social housing targets.