Summary of the Housing Needs Survey Report

Working with Lichfields, we commissioned a Housing Needs survey to help understand in more detail, the housing requirements of our residents (particularly for affordable housing) and how the allocation North of Letchworth can best serve these needs.

We sent a survey to every household in the town and also invited people to respond via our website.

First and foremost, we would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey.

Lichfields’ previous reports reviewed publicly-available information and conducted interviews with local agents to build a picture of Letchworth and its housing market. This report is provided on the website and the findings of previous work is summarised in this study.  This has been used to identify gaps in our knowledge which the survey could help to fill.

The survey found that most newly-forming households wanted to remain living in Letchworth. There is a need for a range of tenures to accommodate from social rented housing for those with lower incomes and affordable purchase options for those on average (or higher) incomes. There appears to be an affordability ‘gap’ for those on incomes of around £40k-£50k meaning that these households may struggle to obtain anything larger than a 2-bed flat/small house on the open market (without a substantial deposit), but could afford a larger home through shared ownership (where households part own and part rent their home) or discounted market housing (where homes are sold with at least a 20% discount on the market value).

Single person households typically wanted smaller housing, whether owner or rented. For those wanting to move into ownership, shared ownership or discounted market housing might be an option as those in incomes of around £30k might be able to afford a 1-2 bed flat with either discounted market or shared ownership housing. Households forming with others had higher incomes as expected (these were more likely to be dual-income), and these typically expressed a preference for owner-occupied or shared ownership housing.

None of these households expressed a preference for flats, which suggests if affordable homes for purchase are provided in Letchworth they should be small family homes with outdoor space suitable for young couples and families.

In line with national trends, North Hertfordshire and Letchworth are expected to see significant growth in the number of older households in the future. As may be expected, the survey has found that the majority of older households (especially owner-occupiers living in larger housing) typically do not want to move. This may be due to costs/hassle associated with moving, wanting to maintain a large home/extra rooms for visitors or for sentimental reasons, since many will still be living in the family home.

For older residents, of those that do want to move, many noted there was a lack of options available currently in Letchworth. Around half stated they would prefer a home on one level (e.g. ground floor flat or bungalow). The lack of downsizing options highlighted by survey respondents suggests that there is very little availability of small bungalows available in Letchworth and those that are, are very expensive. Even an older (owner-occupier) household living in a 3-4 bed home is unlikely to be able to raise enough capital to buy bungalows currently on offer in Letchworth, without raising additional funds (e.g. through a mortgage – which is likely to be difficult for older households).

Finally, the survey suggested that there was some appetite for self-build housing and to a lesser extent CLT housing. Some households were ready immediately to pursue self-build housing, others were still in the planning stage.

We will now be using this information, along with our other reports and following discussions with the District Council, commercial advisers and local Housing Associations to help develop our brief for our housing sites.

You can download the full report below.