Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Young forced to move from village by lack of affordable housing

PEOPLE are moving out of Benson due to a lack of affordable housing, according to a survey.

PEOPLE are moving out of Benson due to a lack of affordable housing, according to a survey.

More than 50 people have left the village in the last five years, mainly due to a lack of suitable housing.

Twenty-two households wish to move to the village within the next five years but say they cannot afford to.

A third of Benson’s 1,172 households took part in the survey, which was commissioned by the village’s neighbourhood plan steering committee and conducted by Oxfordshire Rural Community Council.

The data will be used to help structure the plan, which will recommend what types of homes should be built and where.

About 125 houses are due to be built in Benson by 2027 under South Oxfordshire District Council’s core strategy.

Householders were asked to complete a series of questions about their household, their opinions on housing in Benson and their requirements for a new home, if applicable.

Some residents said they had no choice but to move out of the village due to rising housing costs.

Jon Fowler, chairman of Benson Parish Council and the committee, said: “We would like to be able to provide affordable housing, not just something that a developer considers to be affordable like a four-bedroom house costing £300,000, but something that somebody on an average salary in Oxfordshire could afford.

“There are a fair number of retired people in the village but I think it is important that we cater for younger people who want to stay in the village and get married and have children.”

Responses showed there was the greatest demand for affordable housing through either shared ownership or affordable rent with a housing association.

The three most popular sites for development were Littleworth Road (34 per cent), St Helen’s Avenue (26 per cent) and Blacklands Road (12 per cent).

The district council is currently considering these locations alongside five others — a piece of land north of Sunnyside, land to the east and south of Port Hill Road, land to the north-west of Watlington Road, land south of Braze Lane and land adjacent to Benson airfield. Each of these sites is large enough to accommodate 125 houses.

However, some comments suggested development was not welcome within the village and stated further development would require better infrastructure.

Cllr Fowler said: “There is no point burying our heads in the sand — it’s not an option to say we are not going to accept any houses. The idea of having a neighbourhood plan is that we get to determine where the houses go otherwise they will just be imposed on us.”

Dorian Griffith, senior partner at Benson and Watlington estate agents Griffiths & Partners, said: “Benson is crying out for new housing. It has an aging population and there are no young people moving into the village.

“It is in desperate need of affordable one- and two- bedroom properties. People are having to move out of the area or use shared ownerships of which there isn’t a lot.

“Houses are selling within minutes of coming on to the market but first-time buyers can’t raise enough money for a deposit. As a result, landlords are buying first-time buyer housing and letting it.

“It’s depressing to know that my children are probably not going to be able to afford a house in this area.

“I don’t know whether the market is ever going to be the same again.”

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