The public image of Frome is one of independent shops and markets, cobbled streets and cafes. That’s how the national press portray Frome in those ‘best places to live ’articles. Sadly, alongside the success of the town as a destination for visitors, creatives and innovative entrepreneurs comes the inevitable rise in property prices.
Whilst the ongoing rise of Frome might sound positive there is another side to the story. Local people are being priced out of the housing market and rental prices are soaring. Frome is becoming a town of two halves. There are those who comfortably housed and those who are struggling with rising rents, low incomes and the real possibility of having to leave their hometown to be able to afford a home.
Decent housing is a human right, and it’s something that we as a society should provide. The lack of recently built social housing is a huge problem. The right-to-buy scheme saw significant numbers of council homes taken out of the housing stock in past years. It left a big hole in the socially rented market that still exists today. In short, building new affordable social housing for local people is a must, we need to do it, and we need to do it soon. We should all see the benefits it will bring our community.
A quick look at the statistics gives us a sharp reminder of the situation here in Frome. Figures from Mendip District Council show that the numbers of applications on the housing waiting list has been fairly consistent between 2018 and the present day. There are 276 individuals and families in the top two tiers of the list (gold and silver categories) waiting on the register. In simple terms, this means that Frome needs to provide up to 276 social rented homes to meet the current housing need.
And this number is likely to be an underestimate. It doesn’t include those lower down in bronze section of the housing waiting list. Also, it also doesn’t include those who simply haven’t applied to be housed because they feel their chances of being housed in their hometown are so small.
The team behind Frome Area Community Land Trust (FACLT) has been working hard for the last couple of years to bring new genuinely affordable rental housing to Frome. The team works closely with organisations, such as Fair Housing for Frome. FACLT are hoping that they will land their first sites fairly soon and begin to provide homes to help ease the local housing crisis. One of the crucial aspects with Community Land Trust properties is that they can be targeted at local people. This means that those applying for them would be either from Frome or have existing family connections to the town. The other key aspect is that the homes would not be part of any ‘right-to-buy ’scheme. This ensures that they stay affordably rented in perpetuity.
Community Land Trusts have already been hailed for their success across the country. They make a big difference on a local scale and help people stay in their home towns rather than be housed elsewhere. The community is at the heart of any community land trust development. FACLT hopes to bring the Frome community together and work towards making a real difference in our wonderful town. You can find out more by going to the FACLT website.