Stories about key worker homes lying empty have been rumbling on in the local press for a few months now. This from Milton Keynes earlier this week talks about a key worker development where only 20 of the 100 homes are occupied. http://www.miltonkeynestoday.co.uk/ViewArticle2.aspx?SectionID=415&ArticleID=1449100
Deputy leader of Milton Keynes Council Labour group Kevin Wilson put it like this: "It is, frankly, frightening in a city where there is so much housing need to see so many places lying empty."
Key Worker Living was launched in March 2004 replacing the old Starter Homes Initiative. The programme was designed to help up to 12,000 key workers into home ownership over two years, and to keep key workers in the job that they have trained for. Housing Associations have been encouraged to develop ear-marked key worker developments. And there may lie the problem. This report from the current edition of Personnel Today reports a Liberal Democrat view that key workers do not want to live in public sector ghettos.
Nobody denies that there is a problem. Households living off public sector salaries can't afford market prices for housing. But unlike the homeless who live where they are put by councils and housing associations, key workers can exercise choice. If they don't like what they are offered they won't live there.
The government play down the problem http://www.odpm.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1161724 But what ever the rights and wrongs these sorts of stories do nothing to convince the public that millions of new houses are needed. And perhaps augur badly for what might happen if future new developments are badly planned. Just because there is housing need it doesn't follow that people will live anywhere. Badly planned houses become empty houses.