THE housing crisis in Oxfordshire is deepening as rents outstrip income, a report warned last night.
A new survey from the National Housing Federation shows rents rising faster than average incomes in Oxford, Cherwell, the Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire districts, which it warns is having a negative impact on the county economy.
Now experts are claiming people are being forced to move to cheaper areas or even out of Oxfordshire altogether.
The Home Truths survey claims years of not building enough homes was the root cause of the escalating problems.
Oxford City Council deputy leader Ed Turner said: “This report highlights the acute shortage of housing in Oxford because rents are becoming astronomically high.
“Urgent action is needed. This would include major investment in housebuilding, as well as an immediate moratorium on the recently-extended ‘Right to Buy’ council homes. We also favour expanding Oxford to the south east, and revising green belt boundaries accordingly.
“The housing crisis is causing a huge amount of human suffering, as well as a great deal of cost to the public purse.”
The report shows average rents in Oxfordshire rose by four per cent in the first quarter of this year from £897 to £934 a month compared to the same period last year.
The average income for Oxfordshire in 2011 was £23,494, according to the report, compared to £22,880 for 2010, a rise of three per cent.
In Oxford itself, the gap is greater with rents rising five per cent from £1,061 in January 2011 to £1,110 in January this year.
Incomes rose three per cent from £22,074 in 2010 to £22,792 in 2011.
Mark Crampton-Smith, director of letting agents College and County, based in St Clement’s, Oxford, said: “What concerns me most in Oxford is that the outcome will be to drive people away from the city.”
Mr Crampton-Smith called for city boundaries to be “redefined” with greater local authority co-operation to free up more land for housing, while he added that the city council’s Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) legislation, which requires landlords to obtain a licence, had led to a reduction in the number of rooms available in the city.
The problem of rising rents has been made worse by Government cuts in housing benefits which last year saw a drop of £150 per month for a four-bed house.
Warren Finney, South East lead manager for the National Housing Federation, said: “It’s crunch time for our unsustainable housing market, with house prices and rents set to rocket in Oxfordshire as thousands of families are already struggling to afford their home.
“Being unable to afford the homes they need can stop people from moving for work.
“It’s clear the chronic undersupply of new homes across Oxfordshire and England needs to be tackled now.”
Rent/buy scheme 'cheaper option'
Emma Harris, fiance Jay Morris and their one-year-old son, Ryley, pictured, have just moved into a new two-bedroom Soha Housing home in Simpson’s Way, Kennington.
They have opted for a part-rent, part-buy scheme which allows them to afford a high quality property at a price similar or lower than renting.
Ms Harris, 32, a credit controller, said: “We could not afford a mortgage in this area and this option is possibly cheaper than renting privately.”
The couple were previously on Oxford City Council’s housing list but with both of them working, they knew they would never be considered a priority.
They lived with Mr Morris’s family for a year while saving for a deposit on a home in the Kennington area.
Now they are paying £770 a month mortgage and £270 a month rent.
Ms Harris said: “Now we have stability near our families and we are here until we want to leave rather than a landlord wanting to get you out.”
Scaffolder Mr Morris added: “This development was the only way we could have stayed in the village.”