Homes in the south west cost nearly 12 times annual average earnings in the region – making the region’s housing the least affordable in Britain.
This was just one of the startling facts quoted at the first-ever South West Housing Summit in Exeter, organised by the South West Housing Initiative (SWHI) – the region’s partnership of house builders, housing associations, housing professions, and employers.
The summit heard that 10% of the most deprived areas in the country can be found in Bristol, Plymouth and Torbay – while Penzance has more than half its population living in areas that are among the 20% most deprived in England.
The day-long event was attended by MPs, housing developers, regional business leaders and councillors and officers representing a third of the south west’s local authorities.
Highlighting the acute crisis in small villages, Matthew Taylor, MP for Truro and St Austell, asked whether it was time to accept that small villages are not living, working places but where people retire to and commute.
Taylor warned: “We must not price out people who work in the country or we will end up with a world in which the well off live in the country and commute to the towns while the lower paid are forced to live where property is more affordable in the towns and cities.
“Young families can no longer afford to live in villages and this is leading to the closure of rural schools, post offices and pubs.”
Taylor said he had met farmers who can no longer raise livestock because no one is available to do the work. The only way to solve this, he declared, is by creating more affordable housing.
This would require changing the mindset of people who oppose the further growth of villages because otherwise many rural communities will become unsustainable.
“We have to deliver housing that meets the needs of people who work there on rural wages – typically that is 20% below the national average,” said Taylor.