Marijana No Comments

Neil O’Brien MP: England’s rural housing crisis cannot be resolved by simply ‘building more homes’

Sunday at Conservative Party Conference saw Conservative MP Neil O’Brien joined by a panel of experts to debate the best way to bring affordable homes back to rural England.

It’s difficult to live in London and not be confronted by the sharp end of what the housing crisis means for some people. Rough sleeping is up by 169% since 2010, 15% in the past year. However, the crisis is not just an urban phenomenon with rural England facing its own unique set of challenges characterised by high house prices, lower wages, plus the seasonal nature of both the rental and job market.

Building affordable and quality homes in rural England was the topic of the CPRE and National Housing Federation fringe event on Sunday evening. Chaired by the Editor of Inside Housing Emma Maier, the panel consisted of Neil O’Brien MP for Harborough, John Lefever of Hastoe Housing Association, and CPRE’s Director of Campaigns Tom Fyans.

“The media images are dominated by rough sleeping in cities, but despite the fact that the rural housing crisis does not quite fit that picture it is no less devastating for those people who are affected by it. Nearly 1 in 5 people across the UK live in rural communities, so it is an issue that we should be talking about a great deal more than we are,” remarked Ms Maier.

Neil O’Brien MP says that for too long the housing debate has been dominated by false choices and endless bogus arguments.

“The quality of our housing debate is rather lopsided in this country.”

The MP said the debate needs to refocus on tackling the root causes of limited supply, such as local opposition to development and lack of infrastructure and have a concerted push towards increasing ownership occupation and strategic developments with well-designed infrastructure.

“Every year in this decade the private sector built about 165,000 houses, but owner occupation still went down because the private rental sector has expanded by 195,000 houses every year. The growth in the private rental sector, driven by buy-to-let and the like, outpaced the building. Even if we do build an additional 30,000 houses a year we won’t see a big enough upturn in owner occupation to see a reverse in that fall in the last decade unless we change the private rental sector.”

Ms Maier pointed to the fact that there has been a 30% increase in second homes between 2000-2014, up to 5.2 million.

“If you think about the scale of the number of homes we are hoping to build, 5.2 million is quite a figure for us to be thinking about. It is of little surprise that in some places the market has deviated to serve the second and holiday home owners. The retirees who may be wealthier than those in work or those who are searching for work.”

To combat this issue the MP for Harborough said giving people tax incentives for investing in other things outside of bricks and mortar – such as to move away from Buy-to-Let or for making investments in stock and shares – can make a difference.

The audience heard how the current crisis has been driven by the fact that in many communities, the market for housing has become divorced from local people and local incomes.

Tom Fyans said by definition, only 8% of rural housing stock is classified as “affordable”. He was concerned that the current definition of affordability which is based on market value does not take into account rural salaries, which are typically lower than in urban areas. To tackle this, Fyans said there may be a need for a look at a “rural living rent rate” or getting rental values more linked to local earnings, calling for a new definition that is linked to income and not to market.

The panel agreed that affordability is also impacted by how land value is captured.

“A piece of land that goes from being a piece of agricultural fields to being given permission for residential development becomes worth about 100x more. The great majority of the value of that is captured by the developer or the land speculator,” said O’Brien.

He continued saying that often times the land speculator just sits on the land, gets the planning permission, captures the uplift in value and doesn’t build.

CPRE’s Tom Fyans also hit on this issue saying: “The land’s value increased 120 times once given planning permission. Who gives that value? The land owner doesn’t give any value to that land, it is the community – all its services and infrastructure – that makes the land valuable. At the moment the vast majority of that value is given to the land owner.

“If you are selling the land at 120 times it’s real value, how are you actually going to resolve the rural housing crisis?”

Fyans emphasised that the land developers are not technically at fault as they are “building within the system”, a system that he claims, does not allow for you to assemble that land at the kind of rate that you can build affordable homes on.

“Because of that, you get the market that you see around the country – developments not created for local need which is the key driver.”

He called upon Government to look at home value and reform the 1961 Land Compensation Act.

“We’ve done it before, we can do it again. It used to be that 100% of the value was captured, but that has changed over the past 70 years.”

Beyond the affordability issue, the panel recognised that there is also a resistance in some places to development.

To overcome local opposition, O’Brien said we need to put a stop to “piecemeal unplanned development.”

He called for a move away from the “classic model” of development in rural communities, which entails tacking housing developments onto villages without providing new infrastructure to support them. The MP said this model leads to the village or town resources gradually getting overwhelmed and with important expansions of roads and schools being prevented due to them being “surrounded” by new housing.

“Basically villages that are designed to be small become overloaded.

“We need to get back into the business of planned development, where you can have proper planning for infrastructure, proper transport, and you get away from this “just tacking on” that drives people crazy.

“If you wanted to maximise the opposition to new development in this country, you would have a system that looks a lot like the one we have got.”

The MP said it was important to capture more of the value of the development for the community, a potential figure of £9 billion a year, that can be invested in new infrastructure, parking spaces, landscaping, quality house building and the socio-economic infrastructure.

John Lefever, Land and New Business Manager, from Hastoe Housing Association – the largest rural housing association in the UK – said it is important to have a “community connection.”

“We believe in rural housing, and we believe if it is done well, we don’t just tack it on…”

He said it was absolutely essential that housing is built to only address “local housing need. ” The benefits of focusing on local need is that it is not market lead, which means if the market dips, they keep building.  He remarked that the government needs consistency in delivery and housing associations like his deliver that.

Source: Politics Home

Marijana No Comments

Britain could end homelessness in a decade, claims new report

Homelessness in Britain could be eradicated within 10 years with the correct measures in place, according to a report.

Government policies needed to end homelessness have been set out in a report by charity Crisis called Everybody In: How To End Homelessness In Great Britain.

The plan has been endorsed by experts in the US, Canada and Finland, who are leading successful movements to end homelessness in their countries, Crisis said.

The report follows work with the Chartered Institute of Housing, Heriot-Watt University, the National Housing Federation, and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

The plan says that a national roll-out of Housing First would benefit more than 18,000 homeless people, by providing homes that come with a package of specialised support.

The plan also sets out the policies needed to support people once they are housed, including better rights and longer tenancies for private renters, and reforming housing benefits.

Ending homelessness will also require hospitals, prisons, the care system, and other parts of the state to play a role, the research finds.

Crisis said these organisations should be legally required to help prevent people leaving their care from becoming homeless.

The plan also proposes that job centres have homelessness specialists.

PwC found that, over the next decade, these policies would cost £9.9 billion and deliver benefits worth £26.4 billion, Crisis said.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “For the first time ever, we have a comprehensive plan that shows exactly how we can address the root causes of homelessness and make it a thing of the past.

“Other parts of the world are taking huge strides towards ending it, and Britain can too.

“We must not become a society that simply accepts homelessness as ‘a sad fact of life’, because the good news is that we know it doesn’t have to be this way.”

This includes people living on the streets, in cars and tents, or in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “It is essential that all councils are able to borrow to build new homes and adapt welfare reforms to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.

“A genuine renaissance in council housebuilding would increase housing supply, boost home ownership and reduce homelessness.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said it was committed to tackling homelessness and rough sleeping, working with charities like Crisis.

“We are investing more than £1.2 billion to tackle all forms of homelessness and just last week we announced £30 million for councils to help boost the immediate support available to people living on the streets.

“We are also investing £9 billion to build more affordable homes and are piloting the Housing First approach in three major regions to get people off the streets and into stable accommodation.”

Source: Herald Scotland

Marijana No Comments

£14m housing boost for North Ayrshire Council

MORE than £14 million has been allocated to North Ayrshire Council to build new homes following a request from Kenneth Gibson MSP.

The Scottish Government awarded £14.165 million to the authority for Resource Planning Assumptions (RPA) after the Cunninghame North MSP submitted a question.

The money will fund a range of affordable housing options, including 158 new council houses this year. RPAs provide councils with the financial certainty they need to implement plans to meet their housing priorities.

Over the next three years, 701 new council houses will be completed in North Ayrshire. To help deliver this, the Scottish Government will allocate a further £15.003 million in 2019/20 and £16.007 million in 2020/21.

Since the Scottish Government’s Council House Build Programme began in April 2009, with the aim of incentivising local authorities to build new homes, 244 new council houses have already been built in North Ayrshire.

This follows investment of £16.025 million from the government, an average grant of £65,676 per house.

Kenneth Gibson MSP said: “Everyone deserves to live in a modern, safe, warm, comfortable and affordable home. That principal is central to the SNP Government’s drive to make this country fairer and more prosperous; creating and sustaining jobs here in North Ayrshire and throughout Scotland.

“Prior to the SNP coming to office, council housing had long been neglected. Between 2003 and 2007, the Labour/Lib Dem Coalition built only six council houses in Scotland. All in Shetland!

“By comparison, across Scotland, the SNP Government met its target of building 30,000 affordable homes by 2016 early, in October 2015.”

Source: Ardrossan Herald

Marijana No Comments

New Black Country housing estate could be built on derelict industrial land

The 13-acre site off Darkhouse Lane, near Rosewood Primary School, will be turned into a new housing estate.

Around 142 properties would be built comprising of 30 one bed flats, six two bed flats, 51 two bed houses, 45 three bed houses and 10 four bed houses.

Plans are set to be approved subject to a Section 106 agreement at a Dudley Council meeting next week.

Affordable housing

Planning documents state: “The site is predominantly brownfield, being occupied by vacant, derelict and dilapidated industrial buildings.

“The development would also include open space and ancillary works to provide a buffer to adjacent industrial/railway uses.

“The application is made on behalf of Accord housing association and it is proposed that the entire scheme would be for affordable housing.”

Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley said if the scheme went ahead it would be ‘a boost’ to the local area.

“I welcome any investment in the borough as the council has been through hard times in recent years. We need to create our own new revenue streams and we can do that by building more houses and collecting more business rates.

“If there is an opportunity for commercial properties that would be great, and homes are good as well. I think this will provide a boost to the local economy in Coseley.”

Anti-social behaviour

A design and planning statement submitted as part of the application states: “Despite the site being allocated as employment land it must be noted the site has remained vacant for some time now and is subject to anti-social behaviour problems during the evenings.

“It is understood Dudley Council have expressed a willingness to consider the site’s potential for residential development.

“The design of any proposed residential development must be orientated to address the site constraints highlighted.

“The railway line to the west and coal manufacturing plant to the north have been identified as major potential noise sources.

“And early noise assessments suggest a minimum 60-metre offset of built form from these boundaries.

“This will achieve a substantial amount of public open space that will benefit any residential development and also provides sufficient space for the incorporation of a sympathetic noise mitigation feature.”

A previous application in 2013, from Darkhouse Properties (Jersey) Ltd, for 108 properties, was approved, but no development took place.

Source: Express and Star

Marijana No Comments

Scotland ‘building more affordable homes than England’

Scotland is building more affordable homes per head of population than England despite predictions that Holyrood ministers will miss their own ambitious target for new housing.

The Scottish Government’s supply of affordable housing per capita was found to be 33 per cent higher than the UK government’s supply in England over a 10 year period from 2007.

In answer to a parliamentary question from Edinburgh North and Leith MSP Ben Macpherson, housing minister Kevin Stewart revealed that 70,861 affordable homes had been built from April 2007 to September 2017.

In 2016, Scottish ministers pledged £3 billion to build 50,000 affordable homes, 35,000 of which are destined for the social rented sector.

But the number of affordable homes completed per quarter since the middle of 2016 has averaged at just 1,808, well below the 2,673 needed to reach the 50,000 target by 2021.

The gap in completions for social rent is even wider, with an increase in the completion rate of 159 per cent needed to meet the target.

But Mr Macpherson said the per capita figure demonstrated Scotland’s “strong position” when it came to building new homes.

“This demonstrates the stark difference between the SNP and the Tories, who have let housebuilding drop to its lowest level in England since 1923, whilst cutting winter fuel payments for the elderly and lumping the Bedroom Tax on the vulnerable,” he said.

“Since coming to office, the SNP has built more than 70,000 affordable homes and will continue to increase affordable housing with our ambitious target to deliver 50,000 homes during the lifetime of this Parliament, backed by £3 billion of investment.

“Making sure everyone has a safe, warm and affordable home is central to the SNP Government’s drive for a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.”

Source: Scotsman

Marijana No Comments

Local councils ‘continue to ignore’ building affordable homes on farmland

Local authorities are continuing to ignore ways to deliver much needed affordable homes for local people across the countryside, according to a rural organisation.

New government data shows that despite a 9% increase in affordable homes built in small rural communities across England, only 51 more than the previous year were built on rural exception sites, farmland not usually granted planning permission but used for affordable housing developments.

The CLA, which represents landowners and farmers, welcomed the overall increase but said local councils across England could use these sites more effectively to help solve the rural housing crisis.

CLA Housing Adviser Matthew O’Connell said housing need is “widespread” throughout rural England.

“The increase in the total number of affordable homes being built is encouraging, however, large discrepancies between local authorities mean that certain councils are doing more than others,” he explained.

‘Missing a trick’

According to the data, Cornwall Council leads the way in number of homes built, whilst other councils lag behind.

Mr O’Connell believes local authorities are “missing a trick” by not using rural exception sites to their full potential.

“Rural exception sites are a key means of providing affordable homes in rural areas where a landowner provides land at below market value to build affordable homes for local people.

“We know that 27% of CLA members want to build affordable housing and many are keen to manage their own affordable properties. To harness this ambition, local councils and housing associations must engage with rural landowners to help bring more sites forward increasing the range of housing options for people in rural areas.

‘Hold the key’

Mr O’Connell added that rural landowners “hold the key” to easing the shortage of rural housing.

“Without challenging a few orthodoxies we are not going to solve the rural housing crisis. New build rented housing, affordable home ownership and affordable rented homes are all crucial to maintaining a living, working countryside,” he said.

To help increase the supply of affordable homes across the countryside the CLA is calling on the Government to formalise the process for landowners to manage affordable homes and implement the Housing White Paper proposals on rural exception sites.

The Housing White Paper proposed to give stronger support for rural exception sites and the role they can play in providing affordable housing for the community, even if this relies on an element of general market housing.

The CLA is also urging the government to exempt properties provided as affordable homes from liability for Inheritance Tax, and exempt the value of land sold for affordable homes from Capital Gains Tax.

Source: Farming UK