Claire is Chair of the Faversham Community Land Trust
There was no clear decision at the Local Plan Panel meeting on the distribution of housing numbers across Swale for the next Local Plan. Faversham’s representatives voted for the A & B options, but the majority was for option C. Central government has decided that Swale has to accept 10,000 more houses in the fifteen years from 2022.
Swale cannot simply refuse the housing; the central government dictate has to be accommodated across Swale. Within Swale we can debate the distribution, specific sites and kinds of houses built. The Faversham Community Land Trust commissioned research for Arc4 to determine what kinds of housing local people need and we will be campaigning for these needs to be met.
The Faversham Society has published a really useful critique of the Options paper being considered by Swale. We were pleased to see the Faversham Society’s recognition of the importance of ensuring that the plan delivers emphasis on really or truly affordable housing in their Statement on Swale Housing Options
Swale Borough Council's Emerging Local Plan for Swale
Faversham Town Council's Neighbourhood Plan
I was talking about the aspirations of the Faversham Community Land Trust (FCLT) to my sister who lives over by Kingsdown and she wondered why we were bothering, given that hundreds of new houses were going to be built around the town. I explained that was precisely why working to create affordable, accessible homes for the people of the town, owned and run by the people of the town was so important!
We have already seen the type of houses that are being built. No matter what people say about their build quality, how they look or how closely packed they seem to be, it is obvious that they are in the main, family homes for the relatively well-off. Of course, there is talk of developers having to provide affordable housing but ‘affordable’ here means houses retailing at 80% of market price and that puts them out of reach of many local people. Also, despite the best endeavours of local planning authorities, there seems to be many a slip between plans for affordable housing and them actually being built!
So, if we don’t do something for ourselves to create places for local people to live then they will have to continue to ‘sofa surf’, or live in houses where multiple generations are crammed together, or pay rents that are unaffordable or just be forced to leave Faversham and live elsewhere. As we talked to local people we realised that there was another group we needed to worry about and that was older people being forced to live in houses that were now too big for them because they could not find suitable accommodation for them to ‘downsize’ and live independently in the town.
We should get a much clearer picture about the need for homes in Faversham because the land trust is in the middle of a big housing needs survey. Questionnaires have been sent to every household in the town and the response has been very encouraging. (If you missed the paper version then please go on to our website and complete the survey online!) The survey report is due to be published in time for our Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 15 September 2020, so we should then have a much better understanding of the kind of accommodation we need to provide either through small scale builds or conversions of existing buildings.
Everybody – people who have lived here for generations, relative newcomers like me or people just visiting the town - all say the same thing – Faversham has a really friendly mix of people who talk to each other and who also seem (as shown by our response to Covid 19) to care for one another. It would be such a shame if we were to lose that mix; if our young people (including professionals like nurses and teachers just starting out on their careers), our new families and our older people looking to downsize had to leave the town just because there were no accessible homes for them to buy or rent.
That’s why the work of the Faversham Community Land Trust seems so important. It is dedicated to creating local homes for local people. The Trust is owned and run, not by the town or borough council, not by landowners or outside developers, but by local people elected by and just as important, held accountable by our Members. Nobody makes a profit, everything is focused on creating the homes that will meet the needs of the people of Faversham.
So, let’s see how well we can do!
If you live or work in Faversham and want to be part of this growing movement, you can become a member for £1, please see our website for details.
Help! I need housing, but I’m not in ‘Housing Need’!
I am one of the Trustees of the FCLT. In my day job I work in the Housing Department of a Kent Local Authority (not Swale). We provide good quality and low-cost ‘social’ housing to people who really need it, and I am proud of the work I do.
But for all the people we can help with a home, there are many more people who we turn away. This is because to have any real chance of getting social housing, you have to be in what is known as a ‘priority need’. A priority need could be something like a health or disability need, being homeless with children, fleeing domestic abuse – things like that. These are genuine needs and people in those groups need our help for sure,`` but (thankfully) most people are not in that sort of need, they just need somewhere decent and affordable to live - and the social housing system is not so good for people like them.
People like grown-up sons or daughters – done uni, working and not earning all that much, but can’t afford to rent a place of their own and forget about buying a place. It’s OK to do a house share with a bunch of others when you’re in your 20s… but when you’re in your 30’s?
People like the working couple with a child who rent a small flat – but they cannot think about saving up for a deposit because they spend all their money on the rent, and they cannot put down roots because they are never sure that the landlord might not decide to sell up and require them to leave.
That is why I went along to the meetings when people in Faversham started talking about what we could do about it, and that is why I am so pleased to be involved with the FCLT. We are ambitious, and our ambition is to build or acquire good quality homes in Faversham so that some people who need somewhere to live but might not be in ‘priority need’ can have a chance of getting something.
We wont change the world, and we wont be able to help many people - but if we can provide even just a few secure and truly affordable homes so local people can stay in the area, then we will have done a good job.