Number of 'affordable' homes being built in Cornwall at its lowest in five years

Aerial view of Truro
More than 800 'affordable homes' have been built in the Duchy over the past year. (Pictured: Truro).

New figures have revealed the number of homes being built for those on lower incomes in Cornwall has fallen to its lowest level for five years.

Cornwall Council delivered the second-highest number of affordable homes in the country in 2020/21, with 814 built.

However, just 10 of those are available to rent from the council or a housing association.

Olly Monk, who is the council's cabinet member for housing, described the figures as "disappointing".

'Needs to be more social rent'

"Even though the figures show we are one of the best performing authorities in the country, I am disappointed in them – 814 is barely touching what we are trying to achieve," he said.

“I am not going to be happy until that is a couple of thousand at least. It illustrates how far behind we are in where we need to be and the journey we need to go on to get where we need to get to.

“Overall there needs to be much more social rent, what I call council housing, that is something we are looking very hard at and are looking to ramp up.

"Social housing is the greatest need in Cornwall right now.”

One of the key issues is defining what it is affordable housing, as it encompasses different forms of accommodation.

Emergency cabins such as these are being used by Cornwall Council to provide housing for those in need. Credit: Cornwall Council

The Affordable Housing Commission published a report in 2020 that called for a new definition based on income and personal circumstances instead of using a percentage of market rates.

They warned many properties referred to as affordable housing “are clearly unaffordable to those on mid to lower incomes”.

Cllr Monk added: “For some people, affordable means a house they can afford to buy with a mortgage.

"For others, it is a house they can afford to rent. I wonder if it would be better to detangle the term affordable so that we are clear about what is being provided.

Cllr Monk went on to say that it was not a question of money to get more affordable housing: “It is not resources, it is capacity. There is not a shortage of money in terms of housebuilding, it is the capacity to deliver.

"What I am trying to do is reset the relationship with housebuilders in Cornwall and those who want to build homes for Cornish people.

"We want to say that we are open for business and what to let them build the houses that local people need. That is not £1million houses, but those that we need day to day.

“It will not happen overnight. We will see more social housing projects come on stream, more and more modular homes and more positive news about housebuilding.

"We will start to see a groundswell in change of direction but it won’t happen overnight.”

Credit: Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporting Service