Weymouth & Portland Action on Wages – WeyPAW
Wages in Weymouth and Portland are way below the national average: at the same time, house prices and rents greatly exceed costs across the UK. People in W&P face a “double whammy” – chronically low wages and unaffordable housing.
This month’s conference (October 13) called by Weymouth & Portland Action on Wages (WeyPAW) asks why we face this crisis – and what can be done.
Many jobs in South Dorset are seasonal, insecure and paid at or below the minimum wage. In contrast, the cost of housing remains high and is unaffordable for most young people.
Housing charity Shelter says that on average, house prices in the UK are almost seven times people’s incomes. “No matter how hard they work, it’s becoming more and more difficult for young people to save up and buy a home of their own,” says Shelter. “Things have to change. Urgent reform is needed.”
In Weymouth house prices are now 11 times greater than incomes. In September 2018 the average cost of a house in Weymouth was £267,784 – over £50,000 more than the national average.
Young families and young people who want to live independently face huge problems: meanwhile hundreds of local properties remain empty. There are almost 800 unoccupied properties in Weymouth and Portland, with many empty for over six months.
What can be done?
Weymouth resident Steve Bendle has spent many years in affordable housing development, management and finance, most recently supporting the community land trust movement in England, including in Dorset. He says: “The Local Plan Review for Weymouth & Portland and for West Dorset proposes designating more precious greenfield sites for housing.
“In giving up this amenity, the community has a right to expect that the housing which gets built meets local needs. The councils’ definition of affordable is inadequate – all homes costing under £250,000 to buy and rents at 80% market rent are designated ‘affordable’.
“The Plan also relies on developers to build homes of the right size, type and specification when their main aim is to keep costs down.
“So the opportunities presented by these new housing developments risk being squandered. It’s time for local councils to take a more proactive role in both planning and land ownership so that families and young people can build stable lives in homes they can afford on local wages.
“We propose more Neighbourhood Plans that set out more precisely what type of homes are needed. Planning Committees can also prepare Supplementary Planning Documents for all the larger sites and involve local people in their drafting to make sure of the right outcomes.
“Otherwise we could just lose our green spaces without meeting our housing needs. The only people benefiting will be landowners and the developers.
“We can do better than this: developing part of every scheme to our own requirements with social rented homes and shared ownership at level of equity people can afford to buy, as well as action on empty and second homes.”
Steve Bendle will be speaking at the WeyPAW conference on Saturday October 13 – 12 midday at Safewise, Radipole Lane, Weymouth. Other speakers include Professor Danny Dorling of Oxford University on wages and inequality, and Eva Herman of Manchester University, who will introduce discussion on women, wages and rights at work. Admission is free – all are welcome.
More information on the WeyPAW conference at: www.weypaw.org.uk