St Albans poorest victims of district’s housing drought

PUBLISHED: 15:09 16 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:01 16 August 2017

Affordable homes being built by SADC at disused garage site in Partridge Road, Batchwood. Photo: St Albans district council

Affordable homes being built by SADC at disused garage site in Partridge Road, Batchwood. Photo: St Albans district council

Archant

St Albans’ poorest are being placed in pricey B&Bs miles from the city due to a dramatic shortage in affordable housing.

Not that you would have known that from last month’s meeting of St Albans council’s cabinet.

Neither the council leader, Alec Campbell, nor the council’s officers knew their own target.

Cllr Campbell said: “I am not aware of one,” while an officer thought it was 100 homes per annum.

In fact, St Albans council policy is to build 200 affordable homes a year.

But according to council documents, the council only managed 66 in 2016/17, and just three in the first quarter of 2017/18.

Between 1994 and 2016, the yearly average was just 69 homes.

Batchwood councillor Roma Mills said: “Most of the accommodation provided by the council is kept in good condition - we do have problems of mould in some flats, but generally the properties are well-maintained.

“The problem is overcrowding, with adult sons and daughters and their children sharing their parents’ modest homes, and parents with children in one-bedroom flats.

“We now have under 5,000 council flats and houses which is simply not enough to meet local need.

“Council properties which were purchased by sitting tenants are now selling for prices well above the reach of those on average incomes.

“The real problem is that we do not have enough housing in our district to meet the needs of people on low and now average incomes.”

A Herts Advertiser investigation into the district’s hidden homeless found the number of people being placed in temporary accommodation by St Albans council has risen by 64 per cent over the past five years.

Homeless people are accommodated while their application for council housing is considered.

Some are being sent as far away as Buckinghamshire, at a cost of thousands to the taxpayer.

St Albans council’s head of housing, Karen Dragovic, said: “We have a legal duty to consider helping homeless people who approach us.

“We are working to provide more affordable housing in the district. Building work on our £5.7 million project to provide 23 affordable homes in Sandridge will start this autumn, and work is underway on 25 homes in Batchwood.”

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CountryPhile

Recently we, as a family (minus two of the kids), visited The Lodge RSPB reserve in Sandy, Bedfordshire. I had never been before, which is perhaps amiss of me as a birdwatcher as it is the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or RSPB and only 45 minutes drive from home.

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