Paul Crawford talks about what makes the South West great with regards to housing and communities

07 June 2018

Our Chief Executive, Paul Crawford recently spoke to us about what makes the South West great with regards to housing and communities.

''The South West has huge ambitions for a vibrant economy.

We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, have world-class beaches and expanses of open countryside that anyone would want to call home. And yet, one of our greatest challenges is finding a home for everyone.

The government is clear about its intention to build 300,000 homes a year across the UK. Yet, with the average house price in Devon and Cornwall around 10 times the average salary, there are huge challenges we have all got to get to grips with. Where is the next generation going to live and can they afford it?

What is encouraging is that there is recognition in politics and government that housing is up there in the top three priorities. There is now a universal recognition that we need to be building more homes but we are some way short of providing the supply to meet demand.

There is a huge housing need in the South West. There is a vibrant economy is built on vibrant communities, where people can live in the areas where they work and where their families are close by. That’s across the whole of our South West, for renting and for ownership, for millennials and older people, for our villages, towns, and cities.

In the South West, the average wages are lower than the national average and house prices are higher than the national average. That means that most people who wish to get on the housing ladder with an average salary cannot afford homes in their communities or near work.

The answer to this requires everyone to address those challenges around lack of supply and the affordability of housing. We can all say we want new homes but there is always going to be a local debate about where these should be sited. Should that be a brownfield, greenbelt or as extensions to existing conurbations? We all recognise these are emotive issues but we are going to have to tackle them.

The number of second homes is an extra consideration for the South West. But, too often the debate on second homes becomes a diversion from the real crux of the matter which is we need to build more homes. It is the scarcity of housing that makes second home ownership an emotive issue. We should not allow the debate about second homes to dominate discussions about housing.

Earlier this year, LiveWest formed through the merger of DCH and Knightstone. We intend to build 1,500 homes a year across the South West for the next ten years.

As one of the largest housing associations in the UK, we are ready to play our part. LiveWest can’t solve these problems alone, but our vision is of a home for everyone. We are increasing the supply of homes that are affordable to rent or buy, whether they are rented, shared ownership or for open market sale.

We all need to ensure that our region has the right skills to put our plans into action. We can have all the Local Plans in place stating that we need more homes. That is meaningless though without the skilled trades and contractors to build them.

For me, it is vital that housing is seen as a priority for the South West, to make sure that the right mix of tenures and that genuinely affordable homes are built. Planning is key. Local authorities need to take action to ensure we have enough homes in the long term and necessary development sites are available.

I want housing to be recognised as being part of the infrastructure that is integral to economic growth. Local authorities, government agencies, and others all have a part to play in recognising that homes are as important as roads and rail.

Building the homes we need is fundamental to our region’s economy, and to all the people who live here.''