Have your say on new housing, homelessness reduction and rough sleeping in West Suffolk

People have just over one week left to give their views and shape a new Housing, Homelessness Reduction and Rough Sleeping Strategy for West Suffolk.

West Suffolk Council launched a survey on 6 February asking for people’s views on the actions and priorities that will direct its approach to housing over the next few years.

As well as seeking the views of residents and people who are struggling to find a place they can afford to live, it has also written to registered landlords who managed affordable housing in West Suffolk and other stakeholders including town and parish councils.

The deadline for responses is 18 March at 11:59pm.

Cllr Richard O’Driscoll, Cabinet Member for Housing at West Suffolk Housing said: “Affordable, available and decent homes” is a strategic priority for West Suffolk Council. We are looking at how we create a strategy to help more people better afford a place to live, improve living conditions and reduce homelessness.

“Not all of these things are within out power. As the local council, the local housing authority and the local planning authority, we want to do all that we can whether its lobbying Government, encouraging private landlords to work with us and regulating for better housing standards.

“It is important that we hear the views of as many people as we can. Whether you are a resident or perhaps commute because you can’t afford to live here, we want to hear your views.

“We all have a stake in the successful future of West Suffolk and the responses we receive will directly shape our new housing, homelessness reduction and rough sleeper strategy. So, if you haven’t already, please take part.”

The survey asks people what they feel should be the priority actions.

Part of the new strategy could see the council lobby Government to tackle some of the factors that inflate prices and rents in the housing market in West Suffolk. In West Suffolk some of the planning constraints that prevent housing development and supply, extra demand for housing such as from its proximity to Cambridge, and rental allowances given to USAF personnel at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, all mean people pay higher private rents.

That in turn has an impact in terms of people being able to meet the cost of “affordable” housing which is set at around 80 per cent of the market rent and is managed by registered providers.

Affordable housing is mainly delivered through housebuilders. Under planning regulations, 30 per cent of developments of 10 homes or more, are required to be for affordable housing. With more pressure on its housing register and the number of people at risk of or made homeless, the council is already looking at how it can deliver more “affordable” housing and increase the amount of private rented homes it can access.

It is currently consulting on a planning policy change in the West Suffolk Local Plan that would require 40 per cent of homes built on greenfield sites to be for affordable housing. Other options for increasing affordable housing supply include through its own development company Barley Homes.

Alongside this, the council’s West Suffolk Lettings Partnership would look to further its work with private landlords, offering incentives such as rent guarantees so it can access more private rent homes for people in need.

The housing, homelessness reduction and rough sleeping strategy will also look at the regulatory powers of the council to raise living standards. While the council has legal powers for monitoring and inspecting licensed Houses of Multiple Occupation, the proposed actions could also see it work to influence and promote living standards across the private rented sector.

Actions to support independent living and enable people with changing health needs to carry on living in their own home also feature. As well as helping residents access Disabled Facilities Grants to make changes to their homes, the draft local plan is pushing for more new homes that will be adaptable to people’s changing health needs, including recognising the challenge of an ageing population.

While the draft local plan includes policies to make new homes more environmentally sustainable in order to reduce energy use and costs, the council is also targeting environmental improvements to existing homes particularly for people on low incomes or who are otherwise vulnerable. The housing strategy would look at how the council can further this work to address poor quality housing, fuel poverty and the cost-of-living crisis.

Under the actions, the council’s emphasis on homelessness prevention would continue. Equally the council would continue to invest in temporary accommodation to ensure good quality accommodation to house people who have been made homeless until they can move on into a more permanent and settled home.

The work of the council’s Rough Sleeper Support Service in encouraging people to take up support and accommodation would also continue to be a priority.

The survey closes on 18 March. Take part at https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/WestSuffolkHousingHomelessnessRoughSleepingStrategy/