Mid Sussex housing demand: Who is it affecting and how are they being helped?

Residents in Mid Sussex say they feel they are being forced to leave the area due to the demand for more housing.

An illustration of Freeks Farm, the first phase of development at the Northern Arc
An illustration of Freeks Farm, the first phase of development at the Northern Arc

In recent years the population of the larger towns, Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill, has seen a significant growth due to their close proximity to London and excellent commuting routes. However, this has had a negative effect on the area and caused an increasing demand for housing, as well as causing prices to soar.

One resident who has been struggling to buy a home is 31-year-old James Connaughton, who has lived in Mid Sussex all his life, growing up in his family home in Burgess Hill, as well as renting in Haywards Heath. However he said high house prices have forced him out.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

He said: “I finally decided I needed to start getting on the property ladder, but looking around Mid Sussex, the prices always seemed to be higher than anywhere else in Sussex.

An illustration of Freeks Farm, the first phase of development at the Northern Arc

“There is a £50,000 premium everywhere and it seemed like to get better value for money I needed to look elsewhere outside that premium area.”

Mid Sussex District Council is aware of the of the ever-growing demand for housing and is encouraging more houses to be built.

A planning inspector said as part of the council’s development blueprint for the area a minimum of 16,390 new homes should be built by housing developers between 2014 and 2031 in order to meet the local housing need.

As part of this housing, developers are required to provide a minimum of 30 per cent affordable housing on every new residential development in Mid Sussex of 11 homes or more.

James Connaughton

But James is not convinced building more houses was necessarily a solution for ensuring local people could and would stay in the area.

He said: “I believe housing prices in Mid Sussex are too high for first-time buyers, especially new builds which are coming in.

“They are smaller than anything built before, [the] square-footage always seems to be smaller, which means you are paying more in Mid Sussex for smaller areas than you would get elsewhere in Sussex.”

According to The Office for National Statistics, the average price of a semi-detached house in Haywards Heath is £343,250 and £397,475 in Burgess Hill, an increase of nearly 300 per cent in prices 20 years ago.

The increase in housing price over the last 20 years in different areas over in Mid Sussex

This can also make it difficult for buyers already on the property ladder, as well as first-time buyers, as the average salary in Mid Sussex is £32,400, which is 11.5 per cent lower than the UK average.

Mid Sussex District Council’s cabinet member for housing and planning, councillor Andrew MacNaughton, said: “Our close proximity to London and the excellent quality of life offered by our rural towns and villages means that demand for housing in our area is extremely high.

“This makes it difficult for some residents to get on to the property ladder in Mid Sussex but the Government does provide some assistance in this regard.”

Affordable housing is a generic term which covers a number of different schemes including social rented housing, shared ownership and affordable rent homes.

The green character area sketch, Northern Arc

Social rented housing is designed to offer lower rent rates and secure housing for those most in need of it.

The shared ownership scheme helps first-time buyers get their foot on the ladder, as you buy part of and rent part of the property. All of these properties are advertised to households on the help-to-buy register through the district council’s website.

“Generally, 25 per cent of the affordable housing delivered on new developments is provided for shared ownership.

“The scheme enables first-time buyers to purchase between 25 percent and 75 percent of a home and pay rent on the remaining share,” Mr MacNaughton added.

Affordable rent homes schemes are approximately 80 per cent market rate housing or set at local housing allowance, whichever is lower. These are allocated through choice-based lettings to households on a common housing register.

Mr MacNaughton said: “Those who cannot afford to buy a home in Mid Sussex outright may be able to take up the affordable home ownership option provided by the government’s ‘help to buy scheme’.”

Mr MacNaughton explained how the district council is also working with Action in Rural Sussex to encourage the development community led housing schemes in Mid Sussex.

He said: “By establishing community land trusts local people can develop and manage homes in their village, ensuring they remain genuinely affordable.”

Community land trusts are set up and run by ‘ordinary people’ to develop and manage their own housing, meaning that it stays as a long-term housing.

This ensures that it remains genuinely affordable, based on what people actually earn in their area.

Community led housing manager for Action in Rural Sussex, Tom Warder said the charity has been working with the district council for more than a decade to create affordable housing.

He said: “We have had a good working relationship with Mid Sussex District Council housing for over ten years now and been involved in the delivery of a number of rural affordable housing schemes including two in Crawley Down and one in each of Ashurstwood and Bolney – all 100 per cent affordable housing for local people in perpetuity.

“To date this has led to us working with 24 different groups and projects. Two of these are community land trust which now have planning consent for 37 homes in total with another 20 home scheme due for submission this month.”

Burgess Hill is one of the largest areas which is in high demand for property buyers, however more homes are set to be built thanks to the development of the Northern Arc site.

It is set to bring more than 3,500 homes to the north of Burgess Hill, 30 per cent of which will be affordable housing, thanks to Home England’s new plan for the 481 acre site.

The scheme will include new homes, employment, three new schools, sports and leisure centres as well as supporting highways infrastructure including a new roundabout on the A2300.

Councillor Robert Eggleston, leader of Burgess Hill Town Council, said: “Burgess Hill has always been a housing hot spot with a considerable amount of pent up demand. This will partly, but not wholly, be met by the development on the Northern Arc.

“Unfortunately this will not have any effect on house prices and with an average price of a house in Mid Sussex of £372,631 many people will struggle to get on the housing ladder.”

Burgess Hill Town Council hopes that the housing mix on the new Northern Arc development includes a good proportion of truly affordable housing to buy so that councillors can help residents stay in the area.

Another hurdle for first-time buyers is the need to find the deposit on the home and the council also want to encourage developers to come up with schemes to ease this burden.

Despite the many struggles some people are facing, estate agents remain positive about the housing market.

Director of Mark Revill & Co in Lindfield Mark Revill explained that even though the prices of properties in the area are rising, he argues first time buyers are not struggling as much as we believe.

He said: “In the current housing market there is still [a] high demand for property in the local area, which is boosted by many first-time buyers taking advantage of low mortgage rates, help to buy incentives and stamp duty relief.

“There are also many people moving out of London to Mid Sussex for an improved living environment combined with excellent commuter links.

“Prices presently have stabilized and we do not foresee any future changes for the rest of the year.”