Castle Point’s “Surgeless” Supply of Affordable Housing an Examination concern? Brighton indicate the way with Transparency!

Nearly 5 Years after Castle Point Council were promising a “surge” in the supply of Affordable Homes in the Borough, through the Echo newspaper;

Norman Smith, cabinet member for economic development and business liaison, said: “It is very disappointing that affordable homes are not being built in the borough for those wanting to find a home in the borough.
“But following the approval of recent planning applications, in terms of affordable housing, I do not think it will be long before we start seeing a change.”

This “good news” story came in the wake of; “Castle Point is suffering a major shortfall in housing as no new affordable homes have been built for almost a year.” *

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Disappointingly for those in need of such housing, the latest published cpbc Annual Monitoring Report fails to indicate any such expected / promised “Surge” in Affordable Housing Supply in Castle Point having been forthcoming;

“16 affordable housing units were delivered in Castle Point in 2016/17, representing 14% of total housing provision (114 dwellings). This level of provision is an improvement on the annual average provision for the period 2001 to 2016 of 11.5%, but significantly below the housing market requirement for affordable housing identified in the South Essex Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2016 of between 50% and 57% of new homes per annum.”

“The indicates that provision in line with OAN would require between 50% and 57% of new homes per annum across the housing market area to be affordable in order to meet the need for affordable housing.”

We trust that the Affordable Housing Supply does NOT include that of Caravans, of which the cpbc Annual Monitoring Report states;

“Since April 2011, the number of people living within caravans in Castle Point has continued to increase. Initially, the increase was rapid, with the number of units increasing 16% between 2011 and 2014. This fell in 2015 and 2016, but this increased to 124 additional caravans falling into residential use, according to Council Tax records in 2016/17.”

“The number of people living in caravans is still significant, and presents an issue for the Council. Caravans do not represent high quality living accommodation as there are issues with winter warmth and over-heating in summer associated with such accommodation.”

Developer David Wilson Homes is constructing 150 new homes on land off Kiln Road, a development which will see the provision of 53 affordable homes.

AND YET; castle point council planning portal reveals Kiln Road developer and the Council have signed a S106 Agreement to provide just 14 affordable dwellings in the first phase of 71 new homes!
A supply of just 20% affordable.

The success of development in Kiln Road is unmistakeable and lucrative. Over 2 years ago it was publicised that homes selling for up to £600,000 were being bought off-plan, such was the demand.

The developer claiming that the Government’s Help to Buy scheme meant that purchasers only need a 5% deposit and that the development is suitable for families and first time buyers. **

This when the refused Glebelands developent was offering 30% Affordable Housing Supply and the daft New Local Plan was proposing 25%, as the requisite for the mainland area!

The defenceless castle point council whose planning department and committee agreed that viability was an issue in the supply of the required Affordable Housing at Kiln Road, will face this issue as a major hurdle if and when their Local Plan eventually reaches Examination by an Inspector, their previous historical supply being unsupportable.

In contrast Brighton City Council aim to achieve more. They are now expecting developers to make public their Viability Assessments on Affordable Housing Supply alongside development proposals.

Setting their expectation levels far higher than those of castle point council, Brighton CC admit;  “This lack of transparency has led to public concern on schemes where reduced affordable housing provision has been accepted by the council on grounds of viability.”

The Brighton and Hove City Council statement reads;

“Property developers could be made to publicly disclose detailed financial information in cases where they say they cannot meet affordable housing targets set out in Brighton & Hove’s City Plan.
At present the city council requires developments of over five or more residential units to provide a percentage of affordable housing – unless it would make a scheme financially unviable. All schemes over 15 units should provide 40 per cent affordable housing.
Currently developers submit viability assessments to the council which are then independently assessed by the District Valuer Services (DVS). The viability information and the independent assessment are currently not disclosed to the public in order to protect commercial confidentiality.
This lack of transparency has led to public concern on schemes where reduced affordable housing provision has been accepted by the council on grounds of viability.
Now the authority is proposing to insist that developers show their sums in applications falling short of the affordable housing target. It would require a full Viability Assessment submitted up front with the rest of the application information.
Councillors are being asked to approve the new requirements in a report to the tourism, development and culture committee on 11 January. The proposals set out in the report are in line with the need for more openness sought by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and recently proposed government consultation paper.
A public consultation on the issue was held in the autumn. The majority of respondents felt the measures would lead to greater transparency, understanding and trust in the planning system. Broadly, developers were concerned that commercially sensitive information could be disclosed and this had the potential to hinder development in the city.
Committee chair Cllr Alan Robins said: “In many cases there may be perfectly good reasons why a developer cannot meet 40 per cent. For example a council might want them to pay for other things such as a new leisure centre. But sometimes developers might be trying their luck by raising viability issues. Either way, it could be beneficial for the public to have the same information as councillors on the planning committee, so that everyone understands why a given amount of affordable housing was accepted or rejected.”
If approved, the new requirements would come into force early this year.”

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One response to “Castle Point’s “Surgeless” Supply of Affordable Housing an Examination concern? Brighton indicate the way with Transparency!

  1. Editor
    CPBCs “Housing Capacity Topic Paper November 2013” expressed some interesting observations when discussing the provision of affordable housing.
    Amongst other issues it stated that:-
    “By constraining net in-migration during the early part of the plan period, there is a risk that house prices may increase due to competition for homes amongst future residents, both from within the borough and from elsewhere. This will have implications for affordability, as discussed in the following section.
    Constraining in-migration can however ensure that existing communities remain stable. There is evidence from elsewhere that high levels of migrants can destabilise communities and result in social issues. However, migrants should not be perceived simply as a problem. Many migrants integrate well into their new communities and contribute positively towards community life. Indeed, a significant proportion of the existing population of Castle Point were migrants to the borough at some point in their lives”

    This would suggest that constrained housing numbers, having the consequences of drastically reducing the expectation of affordable housing, could have some social benefits.

    The document continues:-

    “Overall, it would appear that a housing target of 200 homes per annum would act to constrain net in-migration into the borough during the early and middle parts of the plan period. Whilst such a constraint may control social issues associated with very higher levels of in-migration, it will have an impact on the price of homes by creating demand in excess of supply”

    This may sound rather advantageous to some members of the political establishment, given the right to buy principle seemingly establishing social home renters into home owners and in doing so escalating the prospects of climbing up the social scale.

    The document continues:-

    “Therefore, it is clear that the provision of just 4,000 additional homes in Castle Point during the period 2011 to 2031 will have negative implications for housing affordability. At this level of total housing delivery, it is likely that just over one-quarter of the affordable housing requirement will be delivered (20% rather than 73%).”

    It would not be unreasonable for some to believe that this may have been the strategy all along.
    The document tells us that there may be other issues brought about by the lack of affordable housing:-

    “Issues with the affordability of housing have the potential to cause overcrowding in some homes, and may also drive out-migration of local families to more affordable areas. This has implications for the community and for individual families, where the cost of childcare may increase due to a lack of access to family support. Additionally, the high cost of housing will have implications for the welfare budget, with an increasing number of people relying on benefits to access local housing”

    Alarmingly sec106 agreements allows developers to place their affordable housing commitments, with the agreement of local Planning Authority , within another development areas and in doing so giving Councils greater flexibility to engineer social environments.

    All will be dissected if the New Local SCHEME ever gets to the examination stage.

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