Housing association warns of challenges ahead as it prepares to celebrate 10th birthday
- Credit: Archant
The organisation which provides homes for around one in ten north Norfolk residents is celebrating its tenth birthday this month – and despite significant achievements over that decade, it is warning that the area still faces major housing challenges.
Victory Housing Trust was formed in February 2006 following the transfer of North Norfolk District Council's housing stock and, over the next four weeks, we will examine how it has transformed the homes of thousands of tenants – as well as how it is facing up to the challenges posed by a chronic shortage of homes, the lack of affordable housing in the area, and changing government priorities which are reducing the money available to provide affordable rented homes.
Based in North Walsham, Victory Housing Trust came into existence following a vote in 2005 by council tenants to transfer to the housing association. One in three homes at the time did not meet the government's 'Decent Homes' standard, and Victory promised at transfer that it would invest in ensuring that all of its homes were brought up to that standard within five years – a task which was completed in December 2010, ahead of schedule.
Another priority was to build new affordable homes to meet the urgent demand, and in the ten years since coming into being, Victory has built the equivalent of one new home every six days, after years of the council being unable to provide any new homes. The Trust now has over 5,000 homes across the northern half of the county, with the vast majority still in the North Norfolk district.
But despite this huge investment, north Norfolk still faces a massive housing crisis, with soaring house prices and private sector rents, significant numbers of second homes in the area, and the simple fact that there are far fewer homes than there are households.
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John Archibald has been chief executive throughout Victory's history, and he is realistic about the housing challenges facing the area ten years on.
'In terms of the ratio of house prices to average earnings, North Norfolk is the least affordable place to live in Norfolk or Suffolk,' he said. 'We have the highest average house price in Norfolk, and one of the lowest average incomes – that is why so many people are struggling to find somewhere to live that they can afford.
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'This applies just as much to people in work as those who are unemployed or retired – 21 per cent of those claiming Housing Benefit in the district are actually in employment, which gives an idea of the scale of the problem.
'It is well reported that second home ownership in this part of the world is at a high level, and that too drives up the cost of housing. There are 4,883 second homes in North Norfolk alone – to put that into perspective, the housing shortfall is 1,229. So those second homes would provide four times the housing need if they were no longer second homes.
'Of course, those second home owners bring income and employment to the area, so it's not a completely one-sided argument, but it does certainly have a big effect on affordability.'
Mr Archibald pointed out that people in the private rented sector, as well as facing higher rents, were more likely to live in sub-standard accommodation.
'The English Housing Survey found that one in six private-sector renters had experienced a serious problem in the past 12 months, and that a third of all private-sector rented homes failed to meet the Decent Homes standard.
'We have worked hard to ensure that every single one of our homes is up to that standard, and we continue to invest to maintain and improve our homes. That means that not only do we provide the most affordable homes in the area, but they are also in the best condition.'
Next week: How Victory is tackling the shortage of housing by building new homes – at the rate of one every six days during its first decade.