West Devon Borough Council declared a housing crisis at its meeting on Tuesday, vowing to take immediate action to solve the acute shortage of homes for locals to buy or rent.
After some debate on whether to delay doing so for further reports, committees and discussion, the council backed Cllr Barry Ratcliffe’s motion to take action now.
The list of 13 proposals include some that the council have already embarked on and others which have been discussed. They include providing affordable housing, closing loopholes to discourage airbnbs and other short-term holiday lets and providing homeless accommodation (already approved to go ahead at Spring Hill in Tavistock).
Cllr Ratcliffe said the average house price in the borough now stood at 12 times the average wage.
In addition, with an influx of people from other areas, places to rent are now scarcer than hen’s teeth.
Asked by Cllr Mike Davies (Okehampton North) what evidence there was of ‘a lack of long-term accommodation, Cllr Jory said: ‘As far as I’m aware, there is at least anecdotal evidence for much of what I’ve said and certainly the housing team is in support of what I have said.
‘It is clear for a lot of us from talking to people in our own wards that there is a real and genuine need families and for young people for affordable homes.’
He added: ‘It is a plain fact that not enough affordable housing is being built for the right people in the right places, that would be my answer to that.’
Cllr Moody asked if it was right to debate and go ahead with the motion in the absence of Cllr Ratcliffe, who had put the motion forward. He said he wanted to ask him questions about it.
He said: ‘I would move that we defer the motion until the next available council meeting so we can ask Cllr Ratcliffe personally any questions we may wish to pose.’
Cllr Mandy Ewings suggested the proposals should be looked at first by the council’s housing advisory group.
However Cllr Jory said: ‘We need to crack on with this and respond to the situation and the needs of our residents. It is a matter for all members of the council, it is urgent and it is wide-ranging. We need to sort out our ambitions and move forward and do something for the benefit of our residents. I’m afraid that would be my position.’
Cllr Chris Edmonds agreed, saying: ‘This is about a housing crisis, let’s stop and think for a moment what that represents for many of our residents.
‘Sadly it is incumbent on us as councillors to declare an emergency and to move into taking some action to relieve pressure on a lot of people who are currently facing a crisis. I see no reason for deferring. Surely the responsibility is for us as community leaders to act, so lets get on with this and start taking some much-needed action.’
Cllr Ric Cheadle suggested that a report should be brought back to the council ‘once the advisory housing group has had a chance to consider them’ because the suggestions in the list had not been thought through.
Cllr Jory said the motion wasn’t ‘about developing policy on the hoof’ but a commitment to take action. With several amendments, councillors agreed unanimously to back it.