Friday, April 21, 2006

Key Worker Homes Lying Empty

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.

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 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.


  1. I am sure this is not the only example in the country - so much focus has gone in trying to attract new development at key worker housing - mainly to buy rather than rent without real evidence being obtained initially means large numbers of these units can take a long time to become occupied or even remain empty.

    Has the drive for key woker housing been the "acceptable" face of affordable housing & at what cost to the provision of general needs housing?

  2. Interesting points Anon, and I'm not sure I know the answers. But this looks to me like applying the old council housing model solution to a completely differnt problem. Nobody much likes homogonised estates but council (and RSL) tenants have to just accept what they are offered. Key workers may not be able to afford market housing, but they can chose to commute in from a cheaper area, live with Mum and Dad, buy with friends, rent privately, or find a wealthy partner. And if RSLs build a key worker development that's bad enough Key workers will chose one of the alternatives. It looks like that's what happened here.

  3. what's being said here is there isn't as much demand for key worker housing as we have been told. Lots of money has gone into supporting key worker schemes and nobody in government wants to admit the error

  4. the Blogger server seems to be on the blink today. Annoying but I'm not really complaining, they host millions of blogs and don't charge a penny. I have posts all dressed up but no place to go. I'll try again tommorow.

    I'm not sure about the lack of demand for key worker housing. There are plenty of people working for public services who stand no chance of affording market price housing. I just think demand isn't an absolute and there is an important message there for developers and planners thinking about the thousands of new market homes planned for the south East. If they're not inspiring places to live they'll be empty too.