Housing Director Stephen Hills has informed the South Cambs District Council that Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire must build 29,000 homes if they are to meet increasing demand and tackle the housing crisis.
Recent figures indicate that approximately 47% of households within the area would not be able to buy the cheapest 25% of current houses using solely their income alone. The income now needed to afford to rent an average sized two-bed property South Cambridgeshire is now over £40,000 a year; by comparison, the median income in Cambridge £25,148.
Although many stereotypically think that benefits go solely to the unemployed, the majority of housing benefits paid to those within the working age in South Cambridgeshire is actually going to people who are in employment - indicating that even those with stable incomes require a little extra help with the rent due to escalating costs and lack of affordable housing.
This lack of homes for working people is also causing concern for local employers regarding their workers. Stephen Hills says "talking to businesses, in particular the biomedical campus, they're particularly struggling to find properties for their workforce. We've also had people running care homes, whose staff are on lower wages, struggling to find anywhere to live. If you're a residential care worker, you're not going to be earning £40,000 a year.”
"The very fact we're in a booming area with a fast-growing economy means people are coming here and they need somewhere to live."
The current materials shortages are going to make it difficult for housing targets to be met, with the cost of scaffolding reportedly doubling locally in the past year and delivery times for bricks ever-extending.
"We can't do absolutely nothing, but we do have to be realistic that we're working with market forces here," commented the Housing Director.
One innovative effort made by South Cambridgeshire to immediately address the issue is the setting up of a local lettings agency called Ermine Street, which offers cheaper rents on the open market. However, if the problem is to be fully addressed then ultimately more homes will need to be built. Stephen Hills said the 29,000 figure was "an indicative figure of the need across the piste" rather than a definitive target.