A recent report by the Centre for Cities has ranked Oxford the least affordable city to live in and recommended expansion onto the city’s green belt.
The average home price in Oxford is now 5.8 times the typical local salary and Oxford topped the ranking for unaffordable housing, beating Cambridge and London to first place.
The report urged Oxford to prioritise building on brownfield sites, which could provide 1,500 new homes, but also to develop green belt land to provide 9,500 new homes within a 25 minutes’ walk from the train station.
Significant areas of west Oxford were highlighted by the report for possible development of green belt sites. Such a solution has created controversy among members of Oxford’s student body, who stress the environmental concerns of building on the countryside that surrounds the city.
OUSU Environment & Ethics Officer Xavier Cohen told Cherwell, “We do not need to build on the green belt. We are not facing a housing crisis. We are facing a housing allocation crisis. There are over double more long term empty homes than homeless families in Britain.”
“We need to allocate houses to those who need them rather than to those who can afford to buy them.”
Cohen said, “The environment should not suffer; landlords and the increasingly wealthy rentier class should”.
However the report maintains that, in light of the housing crisis, a review of the use of green belt land is necessary. A Centre for Cities spokesman told the Oxford Mail, “The shortage of housing in Oxford has pushed up house prices, forcing residents and workers to spend more of their earnings on housing, or pricing them out of the city altogether.”
“This in turn limits the ability of Oxford’s businesses to recruit the best workers.”
The report stressed that local businesses had identified the “expansion of the city essential to support their growth”, with increased opportunities for recruitment.
Citing Oxford’s strong economic links with neighbouring local authorities, it claimed that with “well-connected land in these authorities” there would be 98,770 homes and “considerable” contributions to the wider area’s economy. Yet, the report explained that “poor co-operation of local authorities” is “a significant hindrance to economic growth” in the city.
It also noted that, “neighbouring authorities have frequently opposed the city wide Strategic Housing Market Assessment [SHMA], despite recognising the need for more housing in the area.”
The assessment stresses the focus of development on housing with strong urban transport links. In a comparative section, the report argued that Cambridge have taken on the guidance of the SHMA more successfully in growing the city.
This latest news comes a month after a group of squatters occupied the Old Power Station in Arthur Street, in West Oxford in order to host a series of events to draw attention to Oxford’s housing crisis.The squat was ended by the threat of a legal injunction from the University.