With more than 2,100 people on the housing register, the Isle of Wight Council has approved a strategy which should address some of the challenges the Island faces.
The strategy, which will run until 2025, was approved at a meeting of council’s cabinet, as the stark reality of the Island’s housing needs was laid bare.
Councillor Clare Mosdell, cabinet member for adult social care, public health and housing needs, quoted Chinese philosopher, Confucius, as saying, ‘the strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home,’ to emphasise the UK was ‘currently depleted’ and experiencing a housing crisis, and so was the Island. She said:
“This strategy is one of the most important this administration has delivered to date and we have to get it right.”
At the end of August, 2,120 people were on the housing register — which was said to be the lowest figure in the last five months. Although 337 of those people were classified in the 2 highest bands, meaning they are at least two bedrooms short and/or have severe medical and welfare issues.
At the moment, 193 households are living in temporary accommodation with 36 living in bed and breakfasts.
In August, 21 households presented themselves to the council and were accepted as being homeless and in priority need.
Between 1st April and the end of August, the council’s housing needs service was able to prevent 128 people from becoming homeless.
Cllr Mosdell said:
“The Isle of Wight has experienced a significant and sustained unmet housing need.
“It is often heartbreaking and a massive frustration that there is not an easy or timely response we can give.
“Every town and village has to have plans to build new houses and bring existing buildings into housing use so we can maximise all brownfield opportunities.”
The outcomes of the new housing strategy, the last being adopted in 2012, will help support housing services and partners on the Island to increase choices for Island families while meeting specific needs of older and disabled residents, as well as tackling homelessness and building more affordable homes.
Cllr Barry Abraham, cabinet member for planning and housing, said not enough affordable homes had been built over the last ten years. He said:
“Now a quarter of Island households struggle to accommodate themselves in the current housing market and need a safe, warm, affordable home for their wellbeing both now and in the future.”
A housing needs survey in 2018 identified 222 new affordable houses needed to be but each year but Cllr Abraham said ‘few, if any had been built’. He said:
“This lack of affordable housing has disadvantaged Island families and led many others, particularly young people to, to move away to places where wages and house affordability is better matched.”
Despite the government recognising affordability levels as paying only 80 per cent of the market rent, affordability levels on the Island are much lower with a large number of families being able to afford 60 per cent of the market rent.
In the strategy, the Isle of Wight Council commits to intervening in the housing market, with its own housing company, in partnership with other bodies, to deliver the affordable, social housing needs but also expresses the need to bring existing buildings into housing use through any means the council can.