Creating more affordable housing

There is a shortfall of affordable homes available, compared with the need of people in the district. The 2011 Strategic Housing Market Assessment identified that this shortfall is around 770 affordable homes per year. The projects that are set to address this shortfall are as follows:

Delivery of the 2011-15 Affordable Housing Programme

This is the programme of affordable housing schemes which has secured support from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The HCA provide Social Housing Grants to registered providers to help them meet the costs of building new affordable homes.

In the first 6 months of 2012/13, 78 new affordable homes were built. Currently there are 215 further new homes being built with HCA funding support, 40 more ready to start on site and 199 working their way through the planning process. These new homes are being provided by 4 registered providers; Wakefield District Housing (WDH), Yorkshire Housing, the Together Group (formerly Chevin) and Riverside Housing. We are also currently working with 2 of these partners and the HCA to bring further sites forward before 2015 when the current funding round comes to an end.

Delivering new homes through the planning process

In recent years the number of homes provided through the planning system had declined due to the downturn in the economic climate. Recently, however, the number of planning applications has increased following the adoption of the Local Development Framework Sites Document. There are currently 333 affordable properties on 17 sites being constructed around the district by private house builders which will then be owned and managed by Wakefield District Housing and Yorkshire Housing.

Develop an Older Persons Housing Plan

It is well understood that the population is ageing, and there are increasing numbers of older people who require suitable homes. The Older Persons Housing Plan currently being drafted is a response to this trend. The Plan will assist in providing evidence of the different kinds of housing need for older people, and where resources and developments will be best placed. A Consultation Forum will be held with older people, stakeholders and user groups on 27 March 2013.

Bringing empty properties back into use

In seeking to expand the supply of homes, the Council continues to work on getting empty homes back into use. So far in 2012/13 we have helped 270 long term empty homes back into occupation.  Just before Christmas the Council launched three new loans to help further reduce empty homes: these are a Re-occupation loan to help the owners of empty homes carry out essential works to enable them to be re-occupied; an Assistance to Sell loan to help owners get properties in a suitable condition to market for sale, and a Tenancy Support loan to help would be tenants of empty homes bridge the period of time until housing benefit payments begin. The loans have attracted a lot of interest with 42 requests for application forms so far, and the first Reoccupation loan just granted.

Owners of empty properties who would like any advice or information about the services offered by the Council should contact the Empty Homes team on 01924 306665,

The imminent changes to the Council Tax include a reduction in the grace period most owners of empty homes will have once the property becomes empty.  This period will reduce from 6 months to 1 month.  Information to around 2,000 affected owners will be sent out by the Council shortly, and will include a leaflet about the help available through Strategic Housing to get homes back in use.

In May 2013 we will be running the first Wakefield Empty Property Fair in the Kingswood Suite in Wakefield Town Hall. The fair aims to bring together the owners of empty homes with reputable investors who may be interested in buying them or with accredited managing agents to help the owners rent them out.

Any owner, property investor or landlord interested in attending the Fair should contact Steve Chippendale or Sarah Johnson on 01924 306665.

Complete a new assessment of Gypsy and Traveller accommodation needs

The Council is required to make sufficient land available to accommodate gypsies and travellers within its district as part of the Local Development Framework (LDF).  In order to enable the LDF to be approved a new assessment of the Gypsy & Traveller accommodation needs was completed. The assessment identified the need of 7 pitches over the next five years and 14 pitches over the next 10 years.