WEST Devon council chiefs are holding a crunch meeting with housing association officials in a bid to solve the area’s mounting housing crisis.
Neil Jory, leader of West Devon Borough Council, said it was ‘of increasing importance’ that they looked at what they could do to deal with the housing situation.
Latest figures from Devon County Council have revealed that the amount of rented accommodation available has plummeted by nearly 75 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, with West Devon being named as one of the county’s black spots when it comes to finding a property.
County councillors have admitted they are ‘terrified’ by the decrease and fear lack of property could damage Devon’s prospects of post Covid-19 economic recovery as professional people such as nurses and teachers will be unable to find somewhere to live.
The problem has worsened as landlords opt to turn properties into airbnbs rather than rent them out to local residents, with some property agents insisting they could let homes out several times over.
Council chiefs are also facing the problem of people from outside West Devon moving into the area and working from home via social media platforms instead of having to commute to centres such as London or Manchester.
Cllr Jory told members at the borough council’s hub committee that he wanted to take a more wide-ranging view of housing in the borough and ‘look at what we can do with in partnership with others and at least come up with the start of a plan to deal with the housing situation’ and hoped that the meeting would throw up ideas for boosting the borough’s housing stock.
The meeting with housing association representatives is also likely to tackle the question of a lack of affordable housing, particularly in villages. West Devon mayor Caroline Mott said she was concerned that if an affordable home was disposed of by an association, it was not replaced. And Cllr Peter Crozier added: ‘We can get out of kilter quickly if you sell one house in a village and it isn’t replaced.’
Neighbouring South Hams District Council recently declared a housing crisis partly because of the lack of rented property and is calling on the Government to take action.
An open meeting of the Team Devon local outbreak engagement board was told that around 70 per cent of private rental properties have left the market in the two years up to July 2021. The figures exclude Torbay and Plymouth, which are outside the Devon County Council administrative area.
Keri Denton, the council’s head of economy, enterprise and skills, said reductions were more prevalent in parts of the county such as West Devon, North Devon and Torridge, where there were higher levels of second-home ownership.