Affordable homes boost for north Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 April 2014

Lorraine and Tony Farrow at their home in Kings Close, North Walsham.

Lorraine and Tony Farrow at their home in Kings Close, North Walsham. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Record numbers of affordable homes have been built in north Norfolk but demand is still outstripping supply.

North Walsham couple happy after moving to affordable bungalow

A couple have said they no longer worry about finances after moving to a newly-built affordable home.

Lorraine and Tony Farrow, 61 and 52 respectively, have lived in the Victory Housing Trust two-bedroom bungalow on King’s Close, North Walsham, since May last year.

They previously lived in a two-bedroom terraced house on Walton Drive, in the town, which was privately rented.

The couple went on the North Norfolk District Council housing register as a top priority case after Mrs Farrow could not climb her stairs because of a serious lung condition.

Mrs Farrow, a former activities co-ordinator at Munhaven care home, Mundesley, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) six years ago.

She said: “I was pleased to get on the top priority list because I was getting worse and could not breath. I could not get up the stairs unless someone carried me. It was very stressful.

“Moving has helped us tremendously and helped us financially. The bungalow is much more affordable for us to rent and we have a bit of money left over at the end of the month. We are not worrying about where the next penny is coming from. My husband and I are much happier.”

Mrs Farrow, who gets support from carers five days a week, had to retire early in 2004 because of the COPD but receives £300 a month through a carers allowance.

Her husband works as a factory operative at the Heinz base in North Walsham.

The couple used to pay £565 a month, excluding bills, in their previous home but now pay Victory just over £106 per week, excluding bills.

Between April 1 last year and March 31 this year, 153 properties were constructed for North Norfolk District Council by housing associations in parishes including North Walsham, Sheringham, Northrepps, Honing and Hoveton. The majority were built by Victory Housing Trust.

During the same period in 2012-13 the authority was involved in the building of 18 affordable homes.

John Archibald, chief executive of North Walsham-based Victory Housing Trust, said north Norfolk villages had a role to play in providing more homes which would help communities “thrive” and create jobs.

The not-for-profit charity, which has more than 5,000 properties, will be investing £11.9m in improving its stock and £9.7m for new homes in 2014-15.

It plans to build 1,000 new homes by 2023.

Mr Archibald said: “Affordable housing is crucial for people on the housing register and for the overall economy. If villages don’t grow, they die. I am not advocating concreting over green fields. Every north Norfolk village could take five homes.”

There are currently 2,200 households on the council’s housing register, with 344 of them priority cases.

Mr Archibald added challenges facing the trust were getting funding, planning permission and finding sites but the trust was “on track” for hitting its 1,000 homes target, partly by selling an average of 30 old properties a year.

“Demand far outstrips supply. We are trying to crank up supply. It takes time,” Mr Archibald said.

Rhodri Oliver, deputy leader of the council, said the boost in affordable homes was because the authority was working with developers in a more “practical and flexible way” on a “case by case basis.”

Mr Oliver and Rik Martin, operations manager of the Norfolk Rural Community Council, believed affordable homes provided properties for people who would otherwise be priced out of the market and allowed for younger people to care for older residents.

The council is hoping to boost the work of its enforcement board, set up in December 2012, which has brought 62 previously long-term empty properties back into use.

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