Buttercross. December 12, 2014: Homes need creates more problems

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One thing that seems to be a pretty hot topic these days is housing and our national need for more.

New developments are planned and may not be sited in locations that meet everybody’s taste or need. We need many thousands of homes to meet what seems to be an ever increasing demand.

What has also been surprising is to hear that there are something like 13,000 empty domestic properties in the eastern region.

I don’t know how many of these are in our area but it has to be a substantial number. Fortunately some councils are addressing this issue and not before time.

But much of the housing, planned in most new developments, is still too expensive for many first time buyers, despite the recent easing of stamp duty.

In defence of developers there is an additional requirement other than just building these homes and this pushes costs up.

The cost of land, new children’s playgrounds, communal areas, landscaping, new roads and paths and including in some cases contributions required to upgrade public roads and footpaths.

One local developer recently faced contributing to the construction of a substantial new bypass to “open up” land for development. Other costs include contributions to increasing the sizes of existing sewers and storm drainage, and of course added power lines.

Given all this, it is not surprising that new housing costs what it does. Also of course with the cost of land, house footprints get ever smaller, which means houses are taller to design in the necessary accommodation and services. Gardens have also become smaller.

If new owners wish to grow their own vegetables, allotments become more important. We in Swaffham appear to be reducing ours which is a strange decision.

There is another effect of the reduction in garden sizes in new properties. Linen lines, with washing blowing in the breeze, are likely to disappear with more washing being dried indoors.

The use of tumble driers puts ever more pressure on household electricity costs and the use of clothes airers can produce an atmosphere which is a considerable risk to health for those with breathing problems.

Washing hung on airers can produce up to two litres of water and the condensation produced is capable of encouraging toxic black mould on walls and ceilings, again a substantial, and growing, health hazard.

Many householders complain of damp housing when in fact the fabric of the property is dry and sound. It is too little warmth, and more importantly, ventilation, which is the real problem.

Our homes these days are almost hermetically sealed and with windows now often designed with no trickle vents or fanlights which help achieve a natural and controlled airflow, getting air movement and air change, both essential for good health, becomes ever more difficult. Windows opened, even just ajar, will do the trick.