Need or Greed? Affordable Homes, Local Youngsters and Green Belt to lose out to Foreign Investors.

The concession by the Castle Point Development Committee to the developer, during the October meeting, at Kiln Road resulted in the loss of 23 affordable homes in the Borough, previously covered here.

This is a 43% reduction of the original “proposed” provision of 53 dwellings. At the time there was speculation around this, as no paperwork behind the reasoning has been provided as evidence to substantiate the fact that no providers came forward willing to take up the offer of the affordable homes. This may even eventually lead to no affordable homes being provided on this site as the deadlines approach.

Interest in the market cost dwellings, some as high as in excess of £600,000 according to the Echo newspaper, would sway any developer to nip back to a minimum, the number of affordable homes if allowed.

If interest was to be shown locally by foreign investors, as it has in the Cambridge area, would suggest that local need is not the sole consideration in setting housing targets.

The Lead Group Councillors in the group of 7 looking into development sites would do well to remember this when suggesting their housing need figure. Otherwise Green Belt will be un-necessarily released in Castle Point.

Foreign investors ‘snap up 30%’ of new-build housing in Cambridge – but are they pushing up prices?

Up to 30 per cent of new-build housing in Cambridge is now sold to foreign investors, an estate agent said, as prices in the city soar even higher.

New figures show the average property value in the city rose by £29,800 in the six months to June, smashing past the £350,000 mark for the first time, and buyers from the Far East have been blamed for fuelling the boom.

Savills, based in Hills Road, has offices across Asia and said up to 30 per cent of new housing it sold in the city centre was snapped up by purchasers from overseas.

The company has even taken on an agent who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese at its Cambridge office to help cope with demand.

Toby Greenhow, the firm’s director of residential development sales, said foreign investors typically targeted apartments in major new schemes priced at between £250,000 and £600,000.

Mr Greenhow told the News: “Overseas buyers tended to focus on high value, centrally located properties, because that’s what they have traditionally brought in prime central London. In our micro-market, they have tended to focus on the best in class.

“Prices in prime central London have risen to the extend where people are looking for other growth areas to invest in which have a lower entry price.”

Mr Greenhow said buyers fell into three categories: ‘emotional’ purchasers, who were buying a property for their offspring to live in while they study in Cambridge, ‘nostalgic’ foreigners who were educated in the city themselves and are now looking for an investment, and straightforward investors who wanted a good return.

He said some families who were buying for their children would make the purchase many years before they offspring enrol, to offset the cost of the fees with the rising value of the property.

Colin Wiles, a former chief executive of Cambridge-based King Street Housing Society who now works as a housing consultant, warned the foreign invasion could price even more locals out of the market.

In London, 75 per cent of new-build properties are bought by overseas investors, and the rate in Cambridge is expected to rise further.

Mr Wiles said: “It’s simple economics: if there is more money chasing a fixed number of properties, prices will go up.

“I don’t think there’s any argument this is happening in London and Cambridge is effectively an adjunct to London now, so I think the same argument applies, that this amount of money coming in is stoking up prices.”

But Mr Greenhow said overseas buyers were not showing the same interest in huge developments on the edges of Cambridge, such as south of Trumpington, and argued overseas investment could actually help to make more homes available for locals.

Foreign buyers snapped up apartments off-plan at the Marque, on the junction of Hills Road and Cherry Hinton Road, he said – allowing building to start, and for affordable properties, making up for 40 per cent of the total, to be completed.

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