People on lower incomes will be forced out of York and the city will become part of the London commuter belt unless solutions are found to its housing crisis, a packed meeting was told.

John Hocking,  executive director of Joseph Rowntree Housing Foundation, was speaking tonight at a meeting hosted by York Social at the Priory Centre, Priory Street.

Both YorSpace, a community housing initiative, and York Social urged the council to reconsider its approach to bids to buy council property to enable non commercial organisations to provide lower cost housing for local people.

Mr Hocking said: "If York is going to grow, it needs the housing base which is going to support its growing workforce."

He warned that rising housing prices and costs were pricing people on lower incomes out of the York housing  market and driving them to live in Selby, Leeds, Hull and Beverley where prices were lower.  This increased commuter traffic in and out of the city, he said.

People aged between 20 and 39 were in a housing finance trap because they were paying so much in rent they couldn't afford to save for deposits and high house prices meant they couldn't afford the mortgages.

He warned that even after all brownfield sites within the city are used, some greenfield sites will have to be used  for housing to meet the housing shortfall.

James Newton, co-founder of YorSpace, which is bidding to buy council-owned Oliver House in Bishophill, said its mutual home ownership scheme for the property offered a solution for people in the 20-39 years age range that would enable them to stay in the city and contribute to its community.

He gave details of the scheme and said: "We are asking for a cultural change in the way the council disposes of public assets."

Peter Kilbane, of York Social,  called for more tenancy security for people renting properties and more housing for people on lower incomes.  He warned that leaving the issue to the open housing market would lead to further ghettoziation of parts of York. 

Council properties are public assets, he said.  "Once they are sold they are gone and they are not coming back."

A decision on who buys Oliver House was delayed before the local election by Cllr Daffyd Williams, at the time leader of the council.  He is expected to be replaced by Cllr Chris Stewart at the full council meeting tomorrow.