KSPI 1 - Permanently affordable housing
SCCLT was formed principally to address a crisis in housing. In January 2020 Homefinder reported that the number of households registered with Homefinder Somerset increased by 21% since Q4 2016/17 (Homefinder Somerset, 2020). According to the Strategic Market Assessment (2016, p.145), in Somerset around 63.7% can afford a private rent, suggesting that the need for affordable housing is around 36.3%. Shelter describe private rented housing in Taunton Deane as 'fairly unaffordable', requiring more than a third of income (source: Shelter 2011).
Across Somerset, an income of around £33,300 would be needed to buy a lower quartile property. And the income to access a rented home would be around £21,000 in the private rented sector. Therefore, around 24% of households in Somerset have an income that would be insufficient to afford social rent without some form of subsidy (Somerset Strategic Housing Market Assessment, 2016, p. 147). SCCLT have found that supply of new social rental housing that is compact and affordable but has added collective benefits, is both a valuable service to provide to the community and a viable business model.
Taunton is the present focus of the Society's activity, and in particular the eastern side of the town where deprivation is most acute (the Halcon area, close to our location on East Reach, has fallen into the bottom 10% of areas nationally for deprivation). SCCLT are now initiating projects in other towns in Somerset, to address the needs of other market towns like Highbridge and Wiveliscombe, two locations where they have a growing membership. In general, SCCLT supports independent, locally based CLTs, but it can be easier to begin as part of a larger organisation. This may in time lead to projects branching off from the ‘parent’ CLT to become self-managing.
In 2015, the CLT set the rents at a level that would allow any adult reliant on housing benefit to afford a self-contained flat. The continued freezing of benefits since then, coupled with the reduced housing allowance (LHA) offered to the under 35s, makes this a challenge.
Somerset Co-operative CLT can now say that rents are below LHA entitlements; and they are within reach of people with low entitlement (eg a younger person seeking a flat of their own) provided that they can use the £6 a week saved on broadband internet, the savings from use of the subsidised washing machine, and the £2 saved on reduced heating bills as a result of our investment in insulation, to make up any shortfall.