HOUSING bosses in North Dorset have hit back at a report naming Dorset the most expensive county for property in the South West.

District councillors have gone on the offensive in the wake of findings by the National Housing Federation which revealed that house prices in Dorset are 15 times higher than the average wage.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, the housing portfolio holder at North Dorset District Council, said people in the north of the county stood more chance of securing an affordable home than in other parts of Dorset.

“There are over 700 new affordable homes in the pipeline in North Dorset which have planning permission and secured funding. This figure needs to be set against the 900 households on the housing waiting list,” he said.

“These homes will be built over the next three to five years.”

A £36 million deal struck in March with the government’s Homes and Communities Agency will be used to help the council deliver many of the promised homes with local housing associations and developer Persimmon. Families waiting for homes on the council’s housing register had fallen by more than half in the last three years from 1,859 to 900, a council spokesman said.

Carla Santagostino, the manager of the North Dorset Citizens Advice Bureau, and an adviser to Signpost Housing Association, said the district remained an expensive place to live.

“There are two problems. The private rented sector is very expensive and credit checks are so stringent that many people who have been badly affected by the recession find it difficult to get accepted by private landlords,” she said.

“The other problem is that people are reluctant to register for the council’s housing list because they believe they will not get a high enough priority score to be eligible for housing.”

The district council’s Choice Based Lettings scheme – by which tenants can view and register their interest in renting properties on the housing list – was a welcome development, she added.