Although a large number of people will be housed in the Bridgwater area, North Somerset is also expecting to be housing workers for the construction at Hinkley. But will people lose out due to the large number of new workers?
In November 2010, approximately 66% of households in the private rented sector in North Somerset were on housing benefit. The district is expected to be housing around 12% of the temporary workers on Hinkley Point C.
According to a report by North Somerset Council, it is likely that some of the workers looking for inexpensive accommodation throughout the construction of Hinkley Point C would be competing with those reliant on housing benefit. The report states: “This is likely to lead to a further increase in demand for those properties, thus pushing rents up, potentially to a point higher than those on housing benefit can afford.”
Furthermore, the report states that, due to changes in housing benefit no longer being paid directly to landlords, Hinkley Point construction workers would have a better chance of being offered private rented tenancies than local people on housing benefits. The report states: “This would mean that there would be even fewer properties available to those people that the Council has a duty to house. This is compounded by the fact that the Council only secured 42 affordable housing completions in 2011/12 (due in the main to changes to Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) funding of affordable homes) and only one of these completions was for social rent.”
Another issue highlighted is the reduction in full housing benefit in under-occupied homes, known as the “Bedroom Tax.” The report states: “The housing and homelessness charity Shelter expects more larger homes in the private rented sector will be used as shared houses to meet this new demand (and because landlords are likely to be able to command more rent from multiple households), leading to a shortage of larger homes for families.” Therefore, it appears likely that, in order to minimise losses, shared houses for workers at Hinkley Point C will become more common, at the cost of a reduced number of houses for families in need.
Kay Topazio, Housing Strategy & Enabling manager at North Somerset Council, feels that the council can assist both people in housing need, as well as those workers coming in to work at Hinkley Point. He said: “We have a range of incentives for landlords to encourage them to continue to and provide new accommodation for households, including those on housing benefit. Some examples of these are deposit guarantees, rent in advance, private sector leasing schemes and tenant finding.
“Working proactively with landlords enables us to be prepared for increased demands on the sector, which is likely to be when construction at Hinkley Point reaches its peak in five or six years.
“Despite our low delivery during 2011-2012, we are are currently delivering over and above our target of 150 affordable homes per year. Furthermore, we are pleased to say that North Somerset Council negotiated just under £700,000 to mitigate against any likely pressures on the private rented market by workers at Hinkley Point.
“We have been in close dialogue with our colleagues in the other local authorities within the Hinkley C impact area, as well as EDF Energy, for a number of years, and we have been able to influence the mitigation funds distribution as well as give suggestions for the types of mitigation measures that should be put in place prior to and during the construction phase.
“This means we have a clear understanding of the housing market and can share good practice with our colleagues, ensuring initiatives to increase supply in the private sector are complementary to other local authorities and meet the needs of not only those in housing need, but also those seeking employment and accommodation as part of the construction of Hinkley C.”
However, are still high hopes that the accommodation market in Bridgwater will benefit from the workers. Follow this link to find out more.