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Is this the big debate that is needed in Rochford District?

July 15, 2007 by  

Do you know someone who is finding it difficult to rent or buy their own home in Rochford District, or know someone who has had to move from the District to find a home? Most likely, Yes. But what is Rochford District Council going to do?  It has been reminded that it must look at the following data so by the IDeA Review Team this week.

A Housing Needs Survey was completed in 2004 and it identified that 67% cannot afford private rental and home ownership is beyond the reach of 75% of concealed households, even though nearly 40% of them earn over £25,000 p.a.The Survey established an outstanding net total need for 291 affordable homes per annum. This calculation took into account the Council’s waiting list, homeless and concealed households, and requirements emanating from demographic changes. It is clear from the study that there is too little affordable housing in the district to satisfy local needs. Over 15 years that means 4,500 affordable homes. The current Government target for Rochford District for the same period is an additional 3700 houses. But the Rochford District Council is only proposing 30% of that figure based on each new development over 25 houses contributing 30%. There will be an affordable homes deficit of around 3,300 homes.

The two public consultations on the “Housing Target” (LDF) have shown that the public is overwhelmingly against further loss of Green Belt. But did they realise that 67% of the population of Rochford District cannot afford private rental and home ownership. Most likely, No. (Here are the latest consultation results.)

But it is clear from anouncements this week from Gordon Brown and David Cameron that this issue must be faced up to by Rochford District Council.

Gordon Brown has put affordable housing at the top of his Government’s agenda by announcing plans to build three million new homes by 2020. He told MPs that the number of new homes to be provided each year would be raised by 40,000 to 240,000 a year. He promised to “protect robustly” the green belt but left the door open to some limited building in it, saying that “principally brownfield land” would be used for the new programme. But there appears to be little brownfield available in Rochford District.

David Cameron has warned his party it may need to drop its opposition to new housing so don’t expect the Conservatives at Rochford to be able to protect Green Belt.

Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The problem has never been purely land supply, but more the lack of funding for the roads, schools and hospitals which are needed to turn soulless developments into vibrant communities.” A view held by the Conservatives in Rochford as we have seen in the Echo.

But Gordon Brown has swept this objection away;

A Planning Bill will implement the recommendations of two recent reports to speed up the approval of major infrastructure projects as well the planning system more generally.

A Planning Gain Supplement Bill would ensure that some of the value added to land with the award of planning permission is channelled back from developers to local authorities so that infrastructure can be built.

Is Rochford District Council going to put affordable housing at the top of their priority list? If so how could it be done?

The blueprint must contain a requirement for two-thirds of new housing in the plan to be affordable for local people.

We will need to move away from the approach which only procures affordable housing as a percentage of a larger development, and which means that as far as developers are concerned affordable housing remains an “add-on” rather than a priority.

Smaller developments are less likely to meet with local resistance. It is important not to create estates that, by virtue of their size or location, are difficult to integrate with existing communities. Where there is a proposal for a relatively large number of houses on one site, it is likely that such estates make social inclusion more difficult. This should inform and prioritise the Allocation Development Plan for sites.

More radically, put homes empty for longer than 6 months back into use – equivalent to a year’s supply nationally at current rates.

According to the former ODPM, up to a million homes could be created above shops and in other former commercial/industrial buildings.

Schemes of so-called ‘affordable homes’ haven’t cured the problem – not least because once resold most simply enter the main stream market at full price. There must be new models which “lock in” affordabilty.
Private Accommodation for Sale or Rent. The Council could set up a Homeseekers Register to help people who are looking for affordable housing but who don’t want to rent from the Council or a Registered Social Landlord (also known as Housing Associations). The Council could use the registration scheme to put forward the names of potential applicants to developers who are building new affordable homes for sale or to rent privately.
HomeBuy is a Government initiative to help people in housing need to purchase a home of their own.

There are three types of HomeBuy:

New Build HomeBuy – where newly built homes are purchased via a housing association on a part sale/part rent basis.

Open Market HomeBuy – where purchasers can buy a home on the open market with the assistance of a government funded equity loan.

Social HomeBuy – where existing tenants of Council or housing association properties can possibly buy their current home on a part rent/part buy basis, receiving a discount on their initial purchase.

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