“End of Right to Buy set to increase demand for affordable housing”

Affordable housing output needs to be increased as the Help to Buy scheme is wound down, according to property consultancy Savills. The Help to Buy scheme has been a major factor in helping young people to afford their own home in recent years. However, its eligibility criteria are set to be tightened in 2021 with the future of the scheme up in the air.

[Take this with a pinch of salt – those “affordable” homes are, on average £33,000 more expensive than they ought to be]:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2019/04/14/help-to-buy-costs-first-time-buyers-an-average-33000-extra/

A report by Savills said that housebuilding in England may need to increase by up to a third between 2021 and 2025 to make up for the end of the current Help to Buy scheme. Emily Williams, associate director for residential research at Savills, said: “Private sector housebuilding for market sale has underpinned the rapid expansion in housing supply since 2013, including affordable housing delivery through Section 106. But that growth is slowing against market headwinds.”

http://www.room151.co.uk/brief/#end-of-right-to-buy-set-to-increase-demand-for-affordable-housing

“Councils made to give £225k BACK to developers – often because they didn’t spend it quickly enough”

Could it, has it happened here? Only a Freedom of Information request will tell …

“More than £225,000 of Section 106 money has been handed back by councils – mainly because they did not spend it in time.

The money, paid to councils by developers, is meant to go on road improvements, public transport and community facilities at new housing estates.

S106 contributions are often included as a way to overcome objections and as a condition of planning approval.

But on a number of occasions in the last five years the money was returned because Suffolk councils had not spent it within a five-year limit, Freedom of Information requests from this newspaper show.

While the sums are a fraction of total S106 contributions made, councillors said they showed deep failings within local government.

Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group at Suffolk County Council (SCC), said it was “perverse” that developer contributions were going unspent during a time of austerity.

Much of the returned funding was down to SCC’s failure to carry out highways projects. …”

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/section-106-ipswich-saxmundham-haverhill-housing-developers-1-5866556

Tory councillor bemoans planning mess

Owl says: What the councillor neglects to say is that the mess he describes is entirely down to HIS own party!

“Cllr Stephanos Ioannou is a councillor in Enfield. He is studying Public Policy at King’s College London:

“Local councillors across the country will know the struggle is real in the planning system. Not only does it seem to be irresponsive to the real needs of our local communities that are in need of mixed residential, commercial, office, public buildings and green space. But we see planning applications that pose more negatives than positives being allowed to pass through for ‘the greater good, and the bigger picture’.

One surprising reason for this can be derived from the fact that awarding planning permission in the UK comes down to a Faustian pact. If the devil is in the detail, then the detail is Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Specifically, a clause which formalised “planning gain”, making it in the local authorities’ interests to allow schemes to balloon beyond all reason, in the hope of raking some of the developers’ profits for the public good.

Introduced as a negotiable levy on new development, Section 106 agreements entail a financial contribution to the local authority, intended to be spent on offsetting the effects of the scheme on the local area. The impact of a hundred new homes might be mitigated by money for extra school places, or traffic calming measures. In practice, since council budgets have been reduced, Section 106 has become a primary means of funding essential public services, from social housing to public parks, health centres to highways, schools to play areas. The bigger the scheme, the fatter the bounty for both developers and authorities. Vastly inflated density and a few extra storeys on a tower can be politically justified as being in the public interest, if it means a handful of trees will be planted on the street.

My borough, Enfield, is seeing a surge in young families moving to our borough to escape the surge in housing costs elsewhere in the capital. Predominantly the reasons for the rising demand in our borough are those highlighted by an article in the Evening Standard which mention the ease of accessibility with good motorway connections, good transport links into central London, as well as a the fact that average house prices are modestly rising only 0.4% in our borough, which is something to be reckoned with compared to other parts of London.

But things start to go wrong when planning departments do not take into account, aspects of the local area that make our borough unique. Whether looking at local heritage, the mix of commercial, residential, offices, and the style of new builds, often Enfield Council is quick to bow to the demands by developers and architects for the simple reason of referring to ‘the housing shortage and the need for new homes’. This is a poor state of affairs, and I am worried that the council is moving towards the path of jeopardising local beauty and conservation for the sake of housebuilding. Particularly for a borough such as Enfield which is lucky to have the green-belt it does, this is a real problem for councillors who have to defend their communities.

The issue of planning is also one that concerns the issue of bureaucracy within the council, that sometimes leads to poor decisions and outcomes on certain issues. I remember a local constituent having issues with an application for the property behind her. The Council had, instead of looking at the issue and reopening the planning decision, moved on ‘under delegated powers’ despite major resident objections, to see this build through. This point is echoed by a piece in the Enfield Independent which mentioned that the construction caused ‘considerable cracks in the neighbouring properties of other residents’, and that despite objections being raised within the given time-frame of the regulated pre-planning decision consultation, the planning committee on the council did not even bother to respond to residents’ concerns, and even after ringing, residents could not get in touch with the department.

This goes fundamentally to the heart of what us Councillors try to do, and sometimes can’t do, that is to help our residents most when they need it. Why? Because the failures of planning departments, in this case, mean bureaucracy causes delays, which then causes miss-representation, which then lead to poorly made planning decisions that affect not only the aesthetics of the area, but the general confidence residents have in the council dealing with their concerns in future.

It also raises a bigger question, as to how many similar cases are there, where other developments have gone through without the necessary vigorous scrutiny they need? I agree that we must build for new families and promote a home-owning democracy, but if departments simply rubber stamp applications without giving the power to residents and councillors to scrutinise for the greater good, then what’s the point in even having these departments anyway. We might as well pack up and go home as Councillors, because they are making a major part of our job redundant.

Overall, we have a conundrum of problems. Firstly, local councils are disregarding the necessary mix of residential, commercial and office space for the sake of building homes to fix the housing crisis. This is further worsened by the fact developers can ‘help’ plug the funding pressure of new homes, and contribute towards the funding of some local services, and this makes it increasingly tempting for councils to bow to these demands so that they can increase provision because budgets are tight. And then there is the nitty-gritty issue of local residents who struggle to even express their concerns to local planning departments, and this does not help residents build trust in councils who clearly disregard their concerns.

Local council planning departments such as those in Enfield need a major rethink as to how they approach future planning applications. Otherwise we can expect poor decisions on planning to continue into the future, to the detriment of existing residents.”

https://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2019/01/stephanos-ioannou-councils-have-financial-incentive-to-rubber-stamp-bad-development-proposals.html

“Property downturn could reduce number of affordable homes built by 25%”

“major downturn in the housing market could reduce the number of affordable homes built by a quarter, the property firm Savills has warned.

Savills estimates that about 100,000 new homes a year – a third of the government’s 300,000 target – need to be priced at levels below the going market rate, whether for rent or for sale.

However, only 43,498 such homes were built in England in the financial year 2017-18, albeit 10% higher than the previous year, according to government figures.

Many were built for so-called “affordable rent”, where rental costs are capped at 80% of local private sector rents.

Negative gearing report finds housing less affordable now than at height of the boom.

About half of affordable new homes, 22,000, were built through section 106 of the housing act, for social rent, affordable rent, intermediate rent and shared ownership.

Section 106 is a planning clause requiring developers to include a proportion of affordable housing in their developments, which is often sold to housing associations.

It accounts for 53% of all affordable homes built, passing the 50% mark for the first time in six years.

However, if there was a major housing downturn akin to the late 1980s, early 90s or 2008, when prices and the volume of transactions crashed, the number of section 106 affordable homes would be halved to about 11,000, Savills predicts.

A housing slowdown is also likely to lead to fewer of those homes being constructed. House prices have been falling in London and parts of the south-east for more than a year but values are still rising elsewhere in the UK.

Chris Buckle, Savills’ research director, said: “From the end of the last cycle in 2007-8, we saw a roughly 50% fall in section 106 affordable housing completions to fewer than 4,000 homes.

“Although we are not predicting a market downturn, the housing market is slowing and this could result in fewer section 106 affordable housing completions.”

The Savills analysis comes after official figures showed the number of new homes built for social rent has fallen by almost four-fifths in a decade – while more than 1 million families are stuck on waiting lists for council housing in England.

Only 6,463 homes were built in England for social rent in 2017-18, down from almost 30,000 a decade ago.

In London and southern England the affordable housing shortage is particularly acute. An estimated 42,500 households need homes priced below market rates every year but over the last three years only an average of 5,600 were built a year, leaving an annual shortfall of 36,900, Savills says.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/nov/26/property-downturn-could-halve-building-of-affordable-homes-savills

Cranbrook – town centre and skateboard park problematical

Developers need to build another 500 houses to trigger skateboard park – but even then, it isn’t certain – nor is a new town centre.

“The district council said it is a ‘difficult and uncertain time’ to be planning a new town centre amid the collapse of several big high street stores.

The authority reiterated the importance of getting the ‘right balance’ between community facilities, retail and leisure space, and homes, adding: “We are developing an understanding of what a 21st century town centre should be and how we can deliver a viable town centre for now and the future in partnership with the town council and the developers.

“The location of the skate park is a key element of the town centre and a decision on its location cannot be made in isolation of other key decisions.

“We are working hard to avoid conflict with other uses that are also proposed within the town centre such as a care home, library and town hall and to ensure that it is well related to other youth facilities.

“This work is complex but vital to ensure that the town centre at Cranbrook meets the needs of all groups in the community and pulls in people from the surrounding area.

“It is not the council’s intention to delay delivery of the skateboard park – indeed there has been no delay to date, but it is important that the right location for this and other key activities are found, so we can ensure that Cranbrook’s town centre is a big success.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/hundreds-of-homes-still-need-to-be-occupied-before-cranbrook-s-first-skatepark-can-be-built-1-5685261

East Devon has more than £5 million of unspent money from developers – topping Exeter and Plymouth for non-spending

A Freedom of Information request revealed East Devon has received nearly £8.4 million from developers of Section 106 money, of which it has spent only about £4.4 million.

The exact amount not spent is £5,139,000.

Section 106 contributions are paid to local authorities by developers when planning permission is agreed. The contributions are discussed and agreed before developments are given the go ahead. The money is ringfenced for certain projects and has to be spent within a time period – usually five years [after that the money is lost and can never be reclaimed, any interest on the money is presumably retained by EDDC].

It is by far the highest amount of all the local councils which responded.

Exeter has £872,183 unspent; Teignbridge nearly £4 million; Plymouth nearly £2.5 million.

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/councils-millions-pounds-developers-cash-1951395