WEEKLY COLUMN by Stroud District Council leader Catherine Braun. 

THE scale of the Housing Crisis is now critical.

The housing charity Shelter estimates that 17.5 million people in Britain are affected by unaffordable, overcrowded, insecure or poor-quality housing.

Here in Stroud district, the number of people applying for social housing grows year on year, and there are now 4,000 people on our housing waiting list.

This is hardly surprising, as there has been a sharp decline in the affordability of homes. A recent report by Homes for the South West revealed that average house prices in Stroud district are now more than ten times higher than average earnings.

In the context of the housing crisis, the number of available social homes in no way matches the demand, since only 400 to 500 social rental properties become available each year.

Homelessness is also increasing, with around 850 people per year now presenting as homeless to the council. In these difficult times, the Housing Advice team at the council is the go-to place for information, advice and support, which can include free counselling services for people experiencing relationship breakdowns, to help avoid homelessness.

In Stroud district we have a good track record of building energy-efficient council homes, with plans for 50 plus new properties in Cam, Dursley, Wotton and Stroud to add to our existing stock of 5,000 homes.

We also work closely with housing associations which has resulted in an extra 1,300 affordable homes in new developments over the last 10 years.

At the annual budget meeting on Thursday, we’re now proposing action on second homes and empty homes, to incentivise homeowners to bring these properties into use.

The introduction of a new council tax premium on second homes could affect 535 properties, and a change to the current premium for empty homes by a year, is likely to affect an additional 152 properties.