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Housing need stretches far beyond those who will get to the top of the waiting list


Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds conjures up images of beautiful villages, market towns and affluence. You don’t think of a housing crisis which means that home ownership, or secure affordable accommodation, is an unattainable dream for the majority of young adults in our area.

Average house prices are over 13 times average earnings within our operating area, meaning that even with two adults working full time on average earnings a mortgage is unattainable. An entire generation is unable to leave their parents’ homes, or only able to afford to rent parts of shared homes with no security in the private rented sector.

Cottsway faces two critical questions: how do we respond to the affordability crisis and how do we balance affordability of new homes against our wish to build as many homes as possible?

Every home we build at “affordable” rents of 80% of local market rents is a home that is unaffordable for many families without subsidy through housing benefit. Every home we build at less than affordable rent means a subsidy from our reserves, and a lower number of homes we can build in an area where more homes are desperately needed.

Given the scale of housing need in our area one response is to look to fixed term tenancies to more “accurately” target available homes to provide accommodation for those in the most acute need. But housing need stretches so far beyond those who will get to the top of the waiting list that this approach cannot solve the issue – which is one of inadequate supply and a market in which we treat houses as a form of wealth, rather than simply as places to live.

As a sector we will be failing if we do not become a mainstream tenure option, able to offer homes to the huge numbers of young adults who are being failed by our overinflated housing market. To do this requires the sector to defend its mission, and to continue to offer affordable, secure homes. It also requires creativity and partnership, and national policies that are serious about addressing a generational affordability crisis.


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Written by Kate Wareing | Posted on 29th January 2015

Kate was appointed to the Cottsway board on 1 December 2008, and has been Chair since January 2012. Cottsway is a housing association in Witney, West Oxfordshire, owning 4,500+ homes across Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. Kate works as a freelance international development and housing consultant, specialising in strategic planning and governance. Prior to this, Kate was Head of Innovation and Learning at Oxfam GB, and has previously held other roles at Oxfam including Strategy Development Director and leading Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme for five years. She has also spent more than 10 years working in social housing and social care commissioning.

Website: http://cottsway.co.uk/