Council tackles housing crisis in North Devon
01 December 2021
A new group that aims to tackle the housing crisis in North Devon has been set up by North Devon Council.
Made up of officers from North Devon Council's Housing, Planning and Regeneration teams, as well as key councillors, the North Devon Housing Panel was established to gain a true picture of the housing crisis - and to set about addressing it.
The group first met in October when they invited a number of national and North Devon agencies, employers, contractors and landlords to discuss the crisis as part of the council's rapid housing needs assessment. Representatives from Homes England, Encompass South West, the North Devon and Torridge Housing Crisis Group, Freedom Community Alliance, North Devon Homes - plus letting agencies and two large employers in the district - joined the panel to contribute their views on the scale and nature of the housing problems impacting on the community.
On Thursday 25 November, the Panel met again to present a series of recommendations on the issues identified as contributing to a lack of housing in the district. The council says these direct actions are the most appropriate and cost-effective steps they can take to improve the housing crisis in the district - and they will lobby for change on additional areas outside of their control.
The recommendations are to:
- bring more empty homes into use
- provide more housing for people who are working in North Devon or want to move to the area for work
- develop a place-based approach for providing more housing options for people in Ilfracombe
- use Community Land Trusts to boost the supply of affordable housing
- reduce the ‘loss’ of affordable housing resulting from viability challenges
- improve the process for dealing with planning applications
- improve home energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty
- enhance the council's homelessness prevention service
- provide more suitable and affordable temporary accommodation
- improve housing standards in shared housing and provide opportunity to people who are socially marginalised
Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden says: "We are acutely aware of how the local housing market is making it extremely difficult for local people, and people who wish to move to the area to work, to find suitable accommodation. Our council has always been - and will continue to be - active and passionate in its efforts to keep people housed. We have existing processes in place to help residents who are homeless or at risk of becoming so - and a number of new projects in the pipeline that will increase the number and quality of our temporary housing offer for those in housing crisis.
"However, the situation is complex and ever-changing and we need to continue looking at making improvements and taking opportunities to better the situation for people who are struggling with housing in our district. We are confident that the recommendations we have made go a long way in addressing the issues identified through our housing needs assessment, which included an in-depth and honest discussion with key stakeholder groups in the area. However, real change will require joined up approach from local and national government and, where there are opportunities for change that are outside of our control, we will be lobbying on behalf of our residents.
"We are grateful for the contributions from those who took part in our initial meeting, as they were invaluable in giving the Panel a clear understanding of the issues. We will continue to work with the groups and organisations who contributed as our response progresses."
The recommendations of the Housing Panel will be presented to the North Devon Council Policy Committee at a meeting on 9 December for discussion.
Anyone who believes they are at risk of becoming homeless should get in touch with North Devon Council as soon as possible on 01271 388870 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.