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High house prices and low wages are making life very difficult for young people trying to get on the housing ladder in Shropshire.

Young people in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin are finding it impossible to get on the housing ladder or even find rented accommodation, according to an expert speaking today.

With average house prices 8.5 times the average salary and the average rent more than £570 a month, the county is not the rural idyll is it perceived to be for those looking for somewhere to live, a director of one of the biggest housing providers in the county says.

Sue Adams, from Star Housing, the arms-length management team for Shropshire Council housing says the squeeze on council funding means that local authority capacity to directly support rural housing and related services is limited.

That is bad news for young people with limited resources who are looking for housing.

Last week Star Housing reopened the New Century Court complex in Oswestry, which provides accommodation for 16-25 year olds, having taken over the building from a private housing association.

Ms Adams said that the answer should be to look to local social housing providers to help fill the gap. She says it is time that councils are given the resources they need to step in when private landlords move away.

She said: “Housing associations are reviewing the areas and properties that they manage and some properties have been sold into the private market. In rural areas costs of building are higher and properties are more expensive to manage due to a lack of economies of scale.

“In Shropshire some organisations have exited the county. Uncertainty over long-term service funding for supported housing and related services has also affected this type of provision and more than one housing association has ended its involvement in supported housing schemes for young people. The council decided that strategically the last few schemes in the county must be supported and Star Housing worked with an exiting provider and acquired the building in Oswestry.

“However, the squeeze on council funding means that its capacity to directly support rural housing and related services is limited.”

She said it was not all gloom and doom though, with recent increases in grant rates hopefully helping associations to consider provision in rural areas.

She added: “There are a few housing associations that are extremely dedicated to rural Shropshire and can now consider developing again for social rent in areas where local incomes are low.

“The Much Wenlock Neighbourhood Plan led to more community led affordable housing development but communities need more support to develop plans and landowners to release land for affordable housing. To ensure more progress we need continued funding for neighbourhood plans and revisions to inheritance tax and capital gains to incentivise landowners to release land specifically for affordable housing.

“We should give flexibility to councils to control some matters impacting on the provision of rural housing. They should have flexibility over empty homes premiums to finance temporary accommodation and homelessness services and be free to exempt properties in most demand from the Right-to-Buy.”

Telford-based Wrekin Housing Trust is one of the largest social housing providers in the West Midlands, with almost 12,000 homes for rent and low cost home ownership across Shropshire and Staffordshire.

It says it wants a new approach to the sale of land in order to provide more opportunities.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “We are committed to delivering 500 new build properties per year over the next five years. Part of this includes helping young people get on to the property ladder, such as our shared ownership scheme, which mainly helps younger people buy their first property.

“We are also building a greater number of smaller properties, such as one and two-bedroom homes, to match the increased demand. These types of properties tend to suit younger people.

“Unfortunately, many people in Shropshire are being forced out of home ownership due to high prices, the lack of available housing, wage stagnation and not enough homes being built annually.”

Source: Shropshire Star

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