The importance of both having a low rent and ensuring the homes are great places to live in
Housing costs across the UK for renters and owners have risen steeply over the last two decades. And Frome, as we know, is a lovely place to live so it’s drawn many to want to live here. Frome’s desirability as a place to have a home has pushed our housing cost rises above the national average.
FACLT exists to create genuinely affordable homes for local people in Frome. But the term ‘affordable’, whilst being a handy label, has become very imprecise as a descriptor in recent times. Affordability covers the rental cost and also the cost of living in a house, for example, the cost of heating. Affordability also covers whether the environment can ‘afford’ the housing – is the housing energy efficient? In this article, I explore the different aspects of what is meant by a home being affordable, and the importance of all those aspects to FACLT. We at FACLT want to increase of the number of homes that will be truly affordable to people who are in housing need in our community.
Affordable to rent
There are the different definitions of affordable housing. As well as distinctions between housing, which is owner-occupied, rented or shared between the occupants and a housing association, there is also ‘affordable rent’ and ‘social rent’. The formula for setting these rent levels is quite complex. However, the rule of thumb is that: the rent for ‘socially rented’ homes is no higher than 60% of the market-rent level. If you feel inclined, you can explore this issue further at: https://affordablehousingaction.org/social-rent-what-is-it-how-does-it-help-us-
The socially-rented homes FACLT creates will be built by a Registered Housing Provider such as Aster Housing Association or Selwood Housing. The registered provider will administer the homes for FACLT. Very importantly, FACLT will hold the freehold in perpetuity, which means that these homes will always be affordable.
Affordable to live in
So, if you are a “Froomie’ who has struggled to find somewhere to live and you become a tenant of a FACLT home, you will have a rent to pay that you should be able to afford. That will be a great relief. But what will this home be like to live in? We believe that ‘affordability’ has dimensions other than the cost of the rent.
Socially rented housing should also be affordable to run and help eliminate fuel poverty. Costs of maintenance should be minimised by the quality of materials the house is made of and how the house is built. The cost of energy should also be reduced by ensuring low heat-loss through a Fabric First approach with high levels of insulation and keeping draughts to a minimum. Affordable homes should be warm in cold weather and comfortably cool in hot weather. They should also be well ventilated and well lit.
As well as these physical properties, affordable homes should be designed to bring about occupant wellbeing. These design aspects include the building’s appearance and location and its ability to enable community integration and resilience. A resident who is healthy and happy in their home and well-integrated into a resilient community is more able to make a positive contribution to society. They are likely to have a positive impact on their community, both financially and socially.
When FACLT partners with a Registered Housing Provider to build homes, our preliminary discussions with them start with the requirement that homes are available at the social rent level. But a very important element of the early discussions will be about the affordability of the homes as places to live in and the wellbeing of the occupants of the homes.
Affordable for the environment
There is also a significant environmental element to affordability. Carbon emissions from homes are a significant contributor to climate change. In the era of climate emergency, newly built housing stock should have zero carbon emissions. Fortunately, the construction methods and materials that are used to create low carbon buildings can also bring about homes that are warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather and have low energy costs. It’s a win/win for planet and occupant!
So FACLT will ask the Registered Housing Provider partner in any project to design and construct homes that are:
1. Highly insulated
3. Well ventilated
4. Well lit
5. Powered by energy from non-fossil fuel sources
6. Designed and built to ensure occupant wellbeing.
Summing up . . .
It is early days for FACLT but in our experience so far these affordability aspirations are fully aligned with those of Registered Housing Providers. Homes that FACLT helps to create in Frome will provide tenants with genuinely affordable homes. Importantly, we intend these homes to be comfortable, inexpensive to live in, and pleasing to look at. These affordable homes will contribute to the resilience of the community. They will also be good for the environment. Affordable homes created by FACLT will continue to do all this for the entire lifespan of the buildings. Community Land Trusts uniquely make all these outcomes possible. So FACLT involvement in the building of affordable homes in Frome is very important.
Article by Tim Cutting – Director Frome Area Community Land Trust 24.03.21