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Calls for action on new housing

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: September 20, 2012

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More than 250,000 homes must be built each year to tackle the "serious dysfunction" in England's housing market, experts have warned.

Campaign group Housing Voice called on the Government to take emergency action to tackle the property "crisis" including extending help with deposits for first time buyers into the existing property market rather than just new builds.

Its review, which took evidence from more than 60 organisations and nearly 3,000 people, also called for state investment and the release of public sector land to boost affordable home development.

Lord Larry Whitty, the former Labour party general secretary who chaired the review, said: "The evidence we have received demonstrates that the housing market throughout England is breaking down. There is serious dysfunction in all regions and all parts of the housing market.

"Successive governments have prioritised owner occupation, but it is now in decline and we are reaching a tipping point when the average age of first time buyers could soon be over 40 – potentially spelling an end for the traditional 25 year mortgage. Building more homes requires substantial new resources in both the public and the private sectors. There is clearly a case for urgent, concerted and cross party action at local and national level. We need a strategic- not piecemeal – approach and one which has wide public support and can therefore be sustained."

The inquiry found 250,000 new homes a year were needed and called for one third of those to be classed as affordable.

Geoff Fimister from Citizens Advice said: "Affordability is a major issue for Citizens Advice clients seeking help with housing issues.

"In the year to this April, bureaux received over 233,000 inquiries on Housing Benefit; over 104,000 on rent arrears; over 91,000 on mortgage arrears; over 70,000 on threatened homelessness; and over 25,000 on actual homelessness. Behind the statistics lie hardship, disruption to family life and failed housing policy. We were more than happy to contribute to Lord Whitty's inquiry - it could scarcely be more timely."

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "We are pulling out all the stops to get Britain building and help provide more homes to buy and rent.

"We've introduced real financial incentives so communities can see the benefits of both new development and bringing empty homes back into use, and we are investing £19.5 billion of public and private funding in an affordable homes programme set to deliver 170,000 new homes."

The spokesman added taht the Government had invested £50 billion of guarantees to unlock investment in new infrastructure and affordable homes, getting work restarted on stalled developments and on making formerly-used public land available for housebuilding.

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