THE lack of affordable housing has long been an issue in rural Northumberland, driven by soaring property prices and the desire to own second homes in our more picturesque communities.
It has left us in the unenviable position of having one of the highest property-to-income ratios in the country, where the average mortgage is now 10 times annual salary.
It has left thousands of families languishing on waiting lists, while effectively freezing many out of the communities in which they were born and raised.
The former Alnwick District Council was way ahead of the game when it introduced measures under planning law to demand that larger developers include a percentage of afforable housing in their schemes.
This has worked well in the main, but the slump in the housing market has limited new development in many places and put a number of projects on hold. As a result, the number of affordable homes being built in the Alnwick area now numbers around 14 a year.
This isn’t enough and more must be done to alleviate the pressure. There is movement by the Government to allow local authorities and community groups to access land with a view to increasing the social housing stock.
Some excellent work has already been done in Northumberland, but the momentum will have to increase to cope with demand.
If not, our small towns and villages will begin to fade and die, as people are forced to move away.