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Poll: Experts warn Suffolk is heading towards housing crisis as figures show house prices are 12 times average salary

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 April 2014

Suffolk is heading towards a housing crisis, experts warned yesterday, as they implored the county’s councils and politicians to help them meet demand.

Industry leaders joined councillors in Mildenhall for a frank discussion on easing the soaring cost of housing in the county, as they urged people to get involved in consultations on planning issues.

A recent report from the National Housing Federation (NHF) found the average home costs between 11 and 12 times the average salary, while Forest Heath, Mid Suffolk and Suffolk Coastal are among the 10 districts in the East of England where the cost of renting is rising fastest.

Fewer than half the homes needed in the region are being built according to the NHF, and Danielle Troop, housing advisor to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said this lack of affordability could only be solved by building more homes.

Ms Troop – one of those to attend yesterday’s meeting at Flagship Housing’s offices – praised the introduction of the new planning practice guidance issued by the Government last month.

She added: “There is no reason for local authorities to not allocate sites in rural areas for older people, those working in the rural economy, those needing new-build rented housing, and those wishing to self-build.

“We do not want to see the housing crisis continue, and we have the tools now to change things with the guidance that we lobbied hard to influence.

“There shouldn’t be blanket assumptions that we can’t allocate housing sites in rural areas.

“We are urging our members to get involved in all consultations on different planning issues, housing numbers, and site allocations to make sure the new Planning Practice Guidance is implemented.”

She also urged local authorities to get their local plans approved as quickly as possible, in a bid to stop large and unwanted “windfall” sites being approved outside a district’s strategic plan.

Councillors Rona Burt and Marilyn Curran, the portfolio-holders for housing at Forest Heath and Mid Suffolk, joined New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership operations director Iain Dunnett and industry experts for yesterday’s conference, which was organised by the CLA and NHF.

Claire Astbury, East of England external affairs manager for the NHF, said: “Not only does the shortage of housing cause huge difficulties for local people, it also has an impact on employers and businesses, and even risks holding back economic growth.

“Across the East of England, we need local enterprise partnerships to work with councils, housing associations and others to take a strategic lead on getting more homes built at the right price in the right places, which will help revitalise communities and create jobs.”

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