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Routes to affordable housing

Routes to Affordable Housing

An invitation for you to contribute ideas and thoughts is included at the foot of the page:

In the PIPA member Bulletin of 8th June 2011 Cllr Derek Davies floated a few radical ideas about incentives for housebuilders to restore the delivery of affordable housing at acceptable levels. His mini list was well received by the Minister who enjoined the audience to keep the ideas flowing.

  • Give priority over other applications to applications that incorporate a fair proportion of affordable housing
  • Reduce or waive planning charges for applications that incorporate a fair proportion of affordable housing
  • Have nil Council Tax for affordable purchase occupiers for the first 2years providing builders with a reassurance that there will be potential customers
  • Provide a co-operative working bonus to housebuilders working directly with the HCA & RSLs to deliver affordable housing
  • Provide tax concessions to housebuilders onward selling to RSL's for social and affordable housing
  • Integrate and develop above with the New Homes Bonus funds for increasing housing overall      
  • Every Parish or neighbourhood plan to define a minimum level of affordable housing for its population ie 5%
  • All affordable housing to be eligible for rent /purchase mortgages
  • National competition for the highest number of affordable housing completions to be administered by Shelter. Prize - double the New Homes Bonus on the affordable units?

Cllr Graham Facks-Martin responded: Broadly I do not agree with very much of Cllr. Daviess suggestions.

  • All Local Authorities should define a percentage of Affordable Housing that they are seeking from all approvals for residential development either for on site provision [usually preferable] or via financial contribution, in the real world adjustments are often made after negotiation.
  • All Authorities should allocate sufficient land in their LDF for residential development based on evidence of population growth, inward migration and household formation, the suggested figures in the much reviled RSS are a good basis.
  • Affordable Housing may be for rent, share ownership, shared equity etc. mix to be agreed at Approval.
  • HCA will and should work with private sector developers to increase provision of affordable housing [ and does ]
  • Opposed to all special financial incentives to increase supply of affordable housing, bureaucratic nightmare to administer and Local Authorities have or should have sufficient powers to achieve more affordable housing [ as above]
  • Most important issue re first time buyer market is to free up finance for mortgages in particular reducing deposits required especially for shared ownership which is outside Planning, but I understand that negotiations are going on at a high level.

Cllr Horace Mitchell further commented:
How many authorities have analysed the relationship between LDF policies and population growth, inward migration and household formation? Graham refers to evidence when I suspect he means projections. These projections are not immutable facts for us to respond to quite the reverse. The evidence is past trends, the projections are something to influence not respond to. Our LDF policies, including those attempting to determine the number, types and sizes of houses to be built, are factors that play an important part in determining future demographics. The local population is far from static: internal migration (ie movement within the UK) runs at about 2-3% in many authority areas. The twenty year planning time frame potentially sees a 50% population turnover. This may sound unlikely but recent research by my own authority confirms that only just over half the present population has lived in the district for twenty years or more, while some 30% have lived here ten years or less. 

As a simple illustration of the effect of policies, consider household size. Our main town has frequent, fast train links to London. Past policies have led to large-scale development of relatively small apartments close to the train station. This attracts young singles and couples who work in London, want to get on the housing ladder and look for exactly what weve provided. So locally the rate of household formation has gone up, while average size of households has gone down. If we simply extrapolate trends (which is largely what most demographic projections do, then we should continue to build more and more small apartments, forgetting the role past policies have played.

If we now switch our focus to larger family homes and stop building small apartments, then given the same number of people the local rate of household formation will go down, average size of households will rise. After twenty years, well have trends that suggest building more and more family homes.

If we all go down the route of following the projections well have a self-fulfilling prophecy. In most cities and large towns people believe weve already built too many large blocks of relatively small apartments. Given that in twenty years a sizeable proportion of our local population will be people whove moved here from elsewhere, we need to ask some interesting questions. To what extent have all those young commuters weve attracted contributed to the life and economy of our borough? What kinds of people do we want to attract in future, and why? What kinds of housing will attract them? Do we want to keep on increasing our local population and if so by what proportion and why?

This is the view from a prosperous part of the south east. Of course the view will be different in areas that are less prosperous, and in areas where population numbers may be shrinking, not increasing. In my view too many LDFs look like the same set of policies, with only modest variations. Whatever happened to place shaping?

And In response Cllr Davies urged more positive input:
I have a lot of respect for Graham Facks- Martin from the heady days of SW Regional Assembly, but he has missed the point. I simply wish to stir the bones of Members in off-the-wall thinking to get us out of the housing malaise that has been allowed to creep all over the country with precious little action to overcome the situation.To critise or disagree is easy but not useful. I do not argue with what we are doing but where are the incentives to get builders to build, planners to plan, banks to mortgage, RSLs to get off their backs, Local Authorities to to stretch their policies?

We are not a country of "Oh dear, what a shame," the housing development in the country is in a mess. We are problem solvers normally. Dyson did not worry about the Hoover; he is a thinking man with a mission to improve. Grant Shapps is also a thinking man and is willing to listen to any ideas that will get things moving quicker than exists currently. He must take credit for the success of the Housing Bonus, now he requires more help in Affordable Housing.  

Please add ideas or comments by emailing pipa@rtpi.org.uk