THE economic climate is doing little to help Somerset families looking for their own home, with affordability still a huge problem according to a new report published today (Tuesday, October 27).

The National Housing Federation’s ‘South West Home Truths’ is being launched at a special reception at the Jubilee Rooms at the Palace of Westminster this afternoon.

The event is being hosted by North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson, with a number of other south west MPs set to attend alongside representatives of housing associations, the Tenant Services Authority and Homes and Communities Agency.

The report clearly highlights the growing need for more affordable housing in the county as well as the wider region.

The estimated average house price for Somerset for 2008 (£211,743) stood at more than 11 times the average (median) individual income (£18,715), with even homes in the lowest quartile costing an average of £138,000.

Broken down by affordability, a ‘league table’ for Somerset would look like this: Mendip: £211,725 average house price (12.1 x £17,566 average income).

South Somerset: £214,163 average house price (11.6 x £18,486 average income).

Taunton Deane: £212,055 average house price (11 x £19,219 average income).

Sedgemoor: £194,243 average house price (10.2 x £19,022 average income).

North Somerset: £212,253 average house price (9.6 x £22,178 average income).

It’s not surprising then that more people are turning to social housing, with over 16,800 households in Somerset on waiting lists – an increase of 60.5% in the last five years.

This situation is exacerbated in rural areas, where younger people are increasingly priced out of the communities in which they grew up or have families. On average homes cost over 13 times local incomes in these communities compared to 11.6% in more urban areas.

In addition eight of the top 20 locations for second homes are in the south west, more than any other region.

These present a significant challenge to the local economy - testing the viability of many local shops and services to breaking point.

The Isles of Scilly comes out top of the list with second homes at over 18%. The worst affected parts of Somerset are West Somerset at over 5.7% and South Somerset with just over 1%.

The National Housing Federation is calling on the government to: * Increase public investment to support the building of new high quality social housing.

* Make public land available to affordable housing providers at discounted rates.

* Compel the nationalised banks to make mortgage funds available for shared ownership.

* Ensure local housing authorities assess housing need in all rural areas every three years and publish an action plan to deliver affordable homes.

Jenny Allen, South West regional manager for the National Housing Federation, said: “While we welcome the Government’s efforts to inject more money into affordable housing we need high levels of funding to continue if we’re going to avoid a housing crisis in the future.

“In today’s tough economic climate, where first time buyers and low-to-middle income households in the region can only dream of owning a home, the solution has to be to invest in more high quality homes for social rent now before prices begin to escalate again.

”In order to meet this need, Government must ensure that the region’s housing associations, who build the majority of affordable homes here, get the necessary funding and income required to enable them to deliver the homes we so desperately need.”

Alan Brunt, managing director of Mendip Housing, said: "The National Housing Federation’s Home Truths report paints a pretty grim picture, with waiting lists for Somerset up by almost a thousand (978) households in 2008 compared with the year before.

“The average home costs over 11 times the average income here, so it’s not surprising that affordable housing is in such high demand - we clearly need a lot more of it.

"While home ownership remains many people’s aspiration, this report reveals that for many it’s simply out of their reach. That’s why having affordable rented homes in our towns, and particularly our villages, is vital if we’re to make sure they remain vital and sustainable communities in the future.”