WINCHESTER families on low incomes could be left struggling to afford the rents on a new development of 21 council homes in Stanmore, a local Labour politician has warned.
Cllr Janet Berry told last week’s Cabinet Meeting how calibrating weekly payments to 80 per cent of the market rate for the city – as proposed by officers – could leave some families spending two thirds of their income on housing.
Members voted that a formal planning application be submitted for the development on the site of the former New Queen’s Head pub, comprising five three-bedroom houses, nine two-bedroom houses, as well as a cluster of flats and a bungalow.
But councillors also heard how renting a three-bed council house in the area currently costs £128 per week, yet a comparative property in the new development has a recommended rental value of £198.
Warning that it is the council’s role to provide safe and secure housing to those on low incomes, Cllr Berry said: “These homes will not necessarily be affordable to all those who need them.
“At this level, the rent could take two thirds of the home’s income. It could keep people trapped in the benefits system.”
She said other councils in the country had chosen not to adopt the market-sensitive rental guidelines if they felt it put homes financially out of reach for some.
Winchester City Council’s rent policy for newly-built properties is currently under review.
Council leader Keith Wood said: “It’s something that we need to be flexible on or we will miss the point of all this.
"There’s plenty of time to sort all the things that have been raised.”
The total cost of the Stanmore scheme, including buying the land for £986,000 and improving access to the nearby Carroll Centre, is £4.1m.
The meeting also heard how the seemingly-irrepressible Winchester housing market has now shunted the cost of buying a three-bedroomed home out of the reach of those earning £60,000 a year.
“People on modest or even reasonable wages cannot afford to buy into housing in Winchester of £250,000 or upwards,” said Cllr Tony Coates.