We must act or risk creating a generation of hidden homeless

By 2050 it is estimated that North Essex will grow by some 190,000 people. We are living longer, we are staying in our homes for longer, we are having more children, and yes people migrate to North Essex because it’s a nice place to live.

However, that creates a conundrum when it comes to housing. We face a housing crisis. Across Essex, if current build rates continue, by 2036 we will have 77,000 too few homes. If we do not act, we risk creating a generation of ‘hidden homeless’, young people unable to ever think about purchasing their own home.

And of course not building does not stop the demand, it just pushes up the price. It now costs 8.7 times above average earnings in the Braintree District to buy a home – It’s unsustainable and without action it’s only going to get worse.

The Prime Minister recently spoke about young people with their noses pressed to the estate agent windows, and that is the reality we face.

But the other side of the conundrum is that we must also continue to protect the very reason people want to raise their families in North Essex – the true green heart of Essex, and of course we need to be conscious of the impact on what are already stretched services and infrastructure networks.

For us, the solution to this conundrum is looking to move away from traditional developer led housing to doing something different.

The Garden Community project we are exploring in partnership with Colchester, Tendring and Essex Councils offers us the opportunity to create large scale stand-alone planned developments, built to specific principles, built with green space at their core and a focus not on housing numbers and financial return but ensuring we have the elements they need to make them thrive as communities.

Led and developed by the councils themselves, in partnership with local residents and businesses, we have the opportunity to tackle some of the frustrations of traditional development, looking at ensuring a mix of housing, good design, and ensuring the right infrastructure is in place ahead of or alongside homes.

These plans of course need to be viable, and that is why we are working with experts to assess and model what is possible, but this is an opportunity we can’t afford not to explore.​

Graham Butland
Council leader, Braintree District Council