H O U S I N G N E E D S
Over 1,000 new houses will soon be built in Bridport – how can we support the community in ensuring that these dwellings meet local needs?
Bridport and the surrounding villages, like the rest of the UK, has a housing shortage. West Dorset landscape and proximity to the sea make it an attractive place for retirees and second-home owners, which pushes up property prices. Yet local household incomes here are lower than the national average.
Bridport is required to absorb its share of the national housing quota which has been assigned to the Local Authority by Government. The share, as laid out in the West Dorset, Weymouth & Portland Local Plan, equates to increasing the area’s housing by approximately 20%, from its current level of 7,800 to 9,250 or more, over the 20-year life of the plant. This uplift should, assuming the 35% affordable home target is met, address the housing crisis. However, with developers able to request a reduction in the affordable housing quota on the grounds of the scheme being unviable, open-market prices usually push new housing beyond the financial means of local residents. Most new-home buyers are relatively wealthy people moving from other parts of the country.
So although there is a supply of new homes on the open market, most households would need to triple their income to buy a modest house on a mortgage. Renting privately would take at least half the household’s income. A report into housing needs in Bridport, published at the beginning of 2019, listed over 400 households on the local authority’s housing waiting list. According to the Bridport Neighbourhood Plan, published by the Town Council in 2020, the priorities of the housing policies are “to improve the supply of homes both to rent and to buy which the young and less affluent can access.” The most pressing need is for affordable rented homes.
The greatest need is shown to be for the smaller sized, 1- and 2- bedroom homes. Typically those benefitting most from such homes would be young adults obliged to continue living with their parents, those wishing to ‘flat share’, those just starting families and the elderly wishing to downsize. Of the 413 people listed on the Housing Register in the Bridport, 300 are waiting to rent a 1- and 2- bedroom home.
So the housing needs of Bridport are ‘entry level’ homes, which means low cost, probably rented from private landlords, and likely to be flats or bedsits rather than houses. The Housing Needs Assessment published in 2019 concludes: “The prioritising of smaller homes will lead to more appropriate accommodation for many local residents and help to retain the younger generations within the area.”
Bridport doesn’t need more unaffordable open-market housing – it needs homes to rent or buy that are genuinely affordable for local people on local incomes.