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West Suffolk Council launches consultation which will inform its new housing, homelessness reduction and rough sleeping strategy





Helping more people better afford a place to live, improving living conditions and reducing homelessness are the focus of a new council strategy – which members of the public can help inform.

West Suffolk Council recently agreed a set of new strategic priorities including the delivery of affordable, available and decent homes.

Now it is asking for feedback on proposed actions to include in its new housing, homelessness reduction and rough sleeping strategy, which will direct its approach to housing over the next few years.

The survey is running until March 18
The survey is running until March 18

Part of that could see it lobby the Government to tackle some of the factors that inflate prices and rents in the housing market in West Suffolk.

Some of the planning constraints that prevent housing development and supply, extra demand for housing including from West Suffolk’s proximity to Cambridge, and rental allowances given to USAF personnel at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall, all mean higher private rents across West Suffolk.

That in turn has an impact on people being able to afford ‘affordable’ housing, which is managed by registered providers and set at around 80 per cent of the market rent.

Cllr Richard O'Driscoll at a renovated temporary housing property in Bury St Edmunds
Cllr Richard O'Driscoll at a renovated temporary housing property in Bury St Edmunds

Affordable housing meanwhile 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.

But with more pressure on its housing register and the number of people at risk of or made homeless, the council is 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.

Meanwhile the council’s West Suffolk Lettings Partnership would look to further its work with landlords, offering incentives such as rent guarantees in order to be able to access more private rent homes for people in need.

Cllr Richard O'Driscoll, cabinet member for housing at West Suffolk Council. Picture: Mariam Ghaemi
Cllr Richard O'Driscoll, cabinet member for housing at West Suffolk Council. Picture: Mariam Ghaemi

The housing, homelessness reduction and rough sleeping strategy will also look at the regulatory powers of the council to raise living standards.

The council has regulatory powers for monitoring and inspecting licensed Houses of Multiple Occupation.

Under the proposed actions that are being consulted on, it would also work to influence and promote living standards across the private rented sector.

Other proposed actions focus on supporting independent living and enabling people with changing health needs to carry on living in their own home.

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.

Similarly, while the draft local plan includes policies to make new homes more environmentally sustainable, reducing 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.

The consultation suggests that the council’s emphasis on homelessness prevention should continue.

Equally the council will continue to invest in temporary accommodation to house people who have been made homeless until they can move on into a more permanent and settled home.

Alongside this, 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.

Cllr Richard O’Driscoll, cabinet member for housing at West Suffolk Council, said: “House prices and rents are sky high in West Suffolk.

“We want to ensure that people in our communities can find and afford a place to live, and that the living standards of that home support their health and wellbeing.

“Not all of this is within our power, but 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.

“Our strategy will set that direction. But before we begin to draft it, we want to hear from people, whether they are residents, partners in health, registered providers, some of the charities and organisations we work alongside, and others, so that their feedback can shape our strategy.”

To take part in the consultation see here.

The consultation runs from February 6 to March 18.