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Homeseekers face 'chronic shortage' of affordable homes in Sherborne

By Western Gazette - Sherborne  |  Posted: November 08, 2012

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More than 100 people are chasing only one affordable home each week in Sherborne, figures have revealed.

Dubbed as a “chronic shortage” of affordable housing, statistics released this week by West Dorset District Council show 200 people from Sherborne are enrolled on the housing register.

Of these, around 115 have specifically requested to live or remain in Sherborne – leaving residents fighting for bigger homes and others trying and failing to move into the area.

In the last two months, at best no more than six social and affordable rent houses in Sherborne have appeared in the same week on the Dorset Home Choice register – but district council officials say the average is just one a week.

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The district council housing department blames planning constraints while housing providers say the reduction in Government subsidies means affordable homes are costly.

Reader Kathy Toms has been on the housing list for eight years and now privately rents a two-bedroom house.

She said: “We desperately need a three-bedroom house. My partner works full-time and I have to stay at home to look after my two children. Child care costs are too high.

“We can barely afford to privately rent our house, but we would be able to rent a three-bed council house.”

Figures released yesterday by the National Housing Federation said the number of households registered in West Dorset has increased by 22 per cent since 2010.

Debated in the Houses of Parliament by Dorset MPs, the Home Truths: South West 2012 report said lack of development was to blame, which pushed up prices, making it increasingly expensive to buy or rent.

Sherborne reader Kirsty Rose said: “Private renting and buying a house in Sherborne is an expensive joke. People who are born in Sherborne cannot afford to stay there.”

Katie Mccormack, 28, used to live in a two-bedroom house on South Avenue, provided by Magna Housing Association, with her husband and four children.

She said she was forced out of Sherborne and into Yeovil to find a bigger house.

“It’s taking time for us all to settle in and get used to having none of our family close by for help and support,” she said.

The district council does not hold its own housing stock but is responsible for assessing West Dorset’s housing needs.

Martyn Pearl, housing service manager, said: “The difficulties in meeting the demand include planning constraints on the number of homes that can be built in the area.

“Our advice is for people to be as flexible as possible about where they are prepared to live to increase their chances of being housed quickly.”

District councillor Peter Shorland, for Sherborne west ward and chairman of the policy scrutiny committee, said: “This is the reason why the council’s policies seek to maintain the 35 per cent requirement of affordable homes built on any large development, such as Barton Farm.”

Daniel Rowlandson, communications manager for Magna Housing Association, said: “Affordable housing is a must in towns like Sherborne to create a thriving community.

“On average we re-let our properties within 19 days and this includes making improvements and repairs.”

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