‘Absolutely horrified.’ That was the reaction of one York man when he discovered how few affordable homes were being built in his home city.
Exasperated by the near-impossibility of getting on the housing ladder in York, Dan Taylor submitted a Freedom of Information request to the council.
From that he discovered that only 256 affordable homes were given planning permission in the York Central parliamentary constituency in the last five years.
The figures are for permissions granted between April 1 2012 and September 20 2017
All housing units with planning approval: 4,365
Flats (excluding student accommodation schemes) 2,316 / 53.6%
Student accommodation 1,458 / 33.4%
Town Houses (excluding student accommodation schemes) 421 / 9.64%
Affordable housing 256 / 5.86%
Dan says the focus on building luxury flats and student accommodation has to stop – and the council must instead think of its residents first.
That is why he has launched a petition demanding that planners approve more houses for lower income residents in York.
‘You don’t stand a chance’
Dan, a 28-year-old IT technician, lives in Clifton. He is due to marry his fiancee in September, but they are struggling to buy their first home in York.
“The first few years I lived in York, I was eating into my savings and was poorer than the year before, with high rental costs and repair costs for my car which I needed to get to work,” he told YorkMix.
“It was only when I moved in my fiancée and she managed to find a full-time job that we managed to balance our outgoings.”
Even then he has given up his car to try to save for a deposit on a house. But he considers himself lucky – “If you are single or on minimum wage you don’t stand a chance.”
And the rental market has its own problems. A friend told Dan the waiting list for social housing is very long, and the private rental market “is expensive and unstable”.
“I have one friend who was evicted four times before he was able to buy,” Dan said.
York workers need York homes
He submitted his Freedom of Information request after everyone kept saying that all the new building in York was either for students or luxury flats.
Dan says the response shows the scale of the problem.
“Only 256 affordable houses built in 5 years? How does someone working for minimum wage even stand a chance?
“The council don’t even track on their planning applications if it is a luxury flat or not, so they have no idea if the flats they are approving will be affordable to locals or not.”
Dan met with York Central MP Rachael Maskell on Friday and said she “is equally horrified and she wants to see the situation change”.
He notes that the marketing of the apartments being created at Stonebow House says “here to London in two hours”.
“If you have a well-paid job that requires and pays for you to travel to London, then that York central location is a luxury.
“Someone who works on a low-income job with unsociable hours – for example in hospitality – it is a necessity.
“House prices may be cheaper in Selby, but if your job is in York and you finish your shift behind the bar at 2am when all the buses have stopped running, then your only option is to walk or cycle, and you need a house within a reasonable distance of your work.”
What should change
If nothing changes, York could “turn into a commuter town for the rich,” Dan said.
“It could also see York turned into an investment city like London, full of empty flats that have been bought to inflate house prices and sell on.”
Ms Maskell told him the NHS and care homes are having to employ agency staff in from Leeds, because we are struggling to keep staff in the city.
She said York is being marketed to incomers, which is pricing locals out of the housing market.
“The city has reached its saturation point for luxury flats, and now we need flats our bartenders, receptionists, nurses and waiters can afford,” Dan says.
This is what he wants to see happen :
- the council tracking planning permission for luxury flats, and limiting permission to a small number of units to sell over a certain price point
- research to discover how much student accommodation York needs and restrict this accordingly
- no luxury or student flats allowed on the large development areas of York Central and British Sugar – the emphasis instead on affordable homes for residents.
“This a great opportunity to build decent, affordable houses where people who live and work in York can raise a family in the city they grew up in,” he said.
He urged people to sign the petition to compel the council to change.
“I’m fighting for all the other low and medium income earners who are as sick of the situation as me,” he said.
The council’s view
Mike Slater is assistant director, economy and place, at York council.
He told us: “Ensuring appropriate levels of affordable housing is a priority for the council and our target is for developers to include 20% affordable housing on brownfield sites of 15 or more homes, increasing to 30% for developments on greenfield land.
“Over 500 new affordable homes have been built in York since 2012/13, and there are major affordable housing developments at Derwenthorpe, New Lane Huntington and the former Terry’s site.
“In addition, we have developed new council homes for rent at Pottery Lane and Fenwick Street, with more planned for other locations, and are looking to set up a new housing development company so we can build homes on land that we own.
“Off-campus, purpose-built student accommodation is very popular with students at universities across the UK, not just in York, and frees up family homes for sale or rent in the private sector.”