Plan unveiled to tackle North Yorkshire housing crisis

New houses in West Witton.

North Yorkshire Council has unveiled a housing masterplan aiming to meet the needs of its residents.

The authority is set to ask the views of residents and interested bodies over its housing strategy to 2029 following mounting concerns over the affordability of housing in parts of the county, particularly in national parks and the Harrogate area.

The strategy follows the authority signalling its intent to tackle the issue by moving to double council tax charges on many second and empty homes.

An officer’s report to an executive members’ meeting on Wednesday lays bare the scale and array of other challenges facing the authority, including its ageing population, significant inequalities in health and social outcomes, sparsely populated rural communities and pockets of deprivation and low wage economy.

The report states parts of the county have some of the least affordable housing outside the South East of England, with property price/household income ratios averaging ten times across the whole of North Yorkshire in 2021, reaching 13 times in the Harrogate area.

While the average house price in North Yorkshire rose to £284,000 last October, an increase of over £100,000 in 12 years, median annual pay is as low as £20,000 in some locations, significantly below the national average of £26,000.

The strategy document states the council proposes to support housing bodies to ensure sufficient investment and a supply of housing is maintained, of the right quality, type and tenure in rural areas, while bringing together homelessness prevention and support services.

The document states the authority wants to see at least 2,537 new homes built a year, including a minimum of 802 affordable homes as well as developing an ambitious council housing programme which will include increasing the council’s housing stock.

Crucially for communities in national parks, where housebuilding costs can be highest, the strategy features an aim to maximise all sources of funding to support affordable housing viability.

The proposals also include updating the council’s extra care initiative which provides accommodation for older and vulnerable people with options for care to meet changing needs, including smaller schemes in rural areas, supporting those with complex needs.

Councillor Simon Myers, the authority’s executive member for housing, the first county-wide housing strategy represented an excellent opportunity to get to grips with some persistent issues and urged people to help shape the strategy in a consultation due to start next month.

He said: “I wasn’t the biggest fan of local government reorganisation, but this is one benefit I can see to it.

“North Yorkshire contains diverse housing markets, with varying housing needs and many challenges, but local government reorganisation has given us a once in a generation opportunity to transform services, drive innovation and improve outcomes for our communities and the people who need the most help.

“We will use the new combined strength of the unitary authority and the advantage of being a stockholding council to unlock greater resources, access funding opportunities and accelerate housing growth and regeneration, ensuring that we deliver sustainably, and develop inclusive places.”