A DRASTIC shortage of affordable housing is having ‘severe consequences’ on Devon’s economy as families increasingly struggle to find places to live.

The Devon Housing Commission, which is made up of Devon’s 11 local authorities and supported by the University of Exeter, has written to Lord Richard Benyon, minister for rural affairs, to urge faster action on delivering more affordable homes for the county.

The commission told Lord Benyon that the average home in Devon costs more than 10 times the average income, rising to 28 times in some rural areas.

Lord Richard Best, the commission’s chairman, said: ‘The acute shortage of any accommodation to buy or rent for those on or below average earnings is having severe consequences.

‘Apart from the hardship to families, it is deeply affecting the local economy.

‘It is also leading to a dramatic increase in the need for temporary accommodation, with ever-rising costs to local authorities and a growing population living in insecure, unsatisfactory housing.’

The commission wants the government to ensure more homes are made available for local people by deploying the Defra Rural Housing Enablers’ policy in Devon.

The scheme was boosted last year with £2.5 million of funding to help the supply of new, affordable housing by identifying development opportunities, supporting site owners and community representatives to navigate the planning system, and securing the support of local communities for developments.

Initially, only schemes in Cambridgeshire and Northumberland were announced, but more are due to be outlined by the government this year.

Lord Best said he had heard from Lord Benyon that £97,000 had since been announced for Devon, which will be coordinated through charity Devon Communities Together, but he hopes for further measures to support rural areas in the county.

He said: ‘Small village developments can make an immense difference to the life of the community.

‘Without funding associated with schemes like Rural Housing Enablers for a reasonable term it can be hard to recruit and retain the talented people required to fill important roles in Devon’s workforce.

‘But with these Enablers in place, real progress can be made in getting attractive, sustainable, affordable homes built for local people.’

The majority of Devon’s local authorities are classed as predominantly rural and the percentage of people in the county who live in a settlement of fewer than 10,000 people is twice that of England as a whole.

Furthermore, the delivery of affordable rural homes in Devon has declined since the loss of the previous Rural Housing Enabling service, from more than 200 homes in 2017/18 to only 91 four years later.

The Devon Housing Commission also said it hoped revisions to national planning rules would encourage more development for local people in the county, and that moves would be made to moderate the growth of Airbnb-style short-term lettings from replacing rented accommodation for local people.