a) To present the draft Housing Strategy to the Planning Policy and Local Plan Committee for consultation and invite Members’ comments for Cabinet’s consideration;
b) To report, to the Committee, the current position in respect of delivering affordable housing and the practical issues that have arisen in the application of the Council’s emerging Local Plan policies;
c) To seek the Committee’s endorsement for suggested amendments to the emerging Local Plan’s affordable housing policy aimed at maximising the delivery of affordable housing in light of weak delivery in the past; and
d) To seek the Committee’s agreement for the suggested amendments to be put forward for the Planning Inspector’s consideration when they come to examine Section 2 of the Local Plan in 2020.
The Committee had before it a comprehensive report (and appendices) of the Corporate Director (Planning and Regeneration) (A.2) which:-
a) presented the draft Housing Strategy for consultation and any comments for Cabinet’s consideration;
b) reported the current position in respect of delivering affordable housing and the practical issues that had arisen in the application of the Council’s emerging Local Plan policies;
c) sought its endorsement for suggested amendments to the emerging Local Plan’s affordable housing policy aimed at maximising the delivery of affordable housing in light of weak delivery in the past; and
d) sought approval for the suggested amendments to be put forward for the Planning Inspector’s consideration when they come to examine Section 2 of the emerging Local Plan in 2020.
The Chairman invited Bill Marshall to address the Committee:-
Bill Marshall, a resident of the district, made a statement relating to item A.2 raising his concerns in regards to National Planning Policy Framework Paragraphs 34 and 64. Mr Marshall urged Officers to rethink affordable housing viability and the taxing nature on the developer and ordinary market home purchasers.
Members were informed that the Council’s draft Housing Strategy 2019-2024 had been developed in order to guide the future of new homes within the District to meet local needs and to guide the future management and direction of the Council’s housing service. The Council retained its own housing stock and currently had 3,134 homes in its ownership. The Council was the largest landlord in the District and remained fully committed to this role and would consult with and continue to support its tenants to ensure that they all had a decent, affordable home in an area that they felt proud of. One of the strategic housing priorities set out in the Strategy was ‘delivering homes to meet the needs of local people’ which was highly dependent on the implementation of policies and proposals in the emerging Local Plan. Many of the specific actions in the Housing Strategy linked directly to policies in the emerging Local Plan.
The Committee was made aware that the Council’s draft Housing Strategy had been developed at a time of major actual and proposed changes to the national housing landscape and financial constraints for the Council. In 2018, three separate opinion polls published by Kantar, Survation and lpsos had highlighted that only Brexit and the NHS were issues of greater concern to the UK population than housing. Recent years had seen the introduction of neighbourhood planning and the Localism Act 2011, changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), welfare reforms, increased regulation in the private rented sector, the tragedy of Grenfell Tower and the most fundamental change in homelessness legislation in many years, the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Whilst local authorities were not required by Government to have a formal housing strategy, they were expected to adopt a strategy approach to housing in their local areas to deliver a thriving housing market and to address local needs.
In order to meet the challenges facing the District, the draft Housing Strategy identified four key housing priorities, as follows:
1. Delivering homes to meet the needs of local people;
2. Reducing and preventing homelessness and rough sleeping;
3. Making the best use of and improving existing housing;
4. Supporting people in their homes and communities.
Each of the key housing priorities was accompanied by a series of actions as set out below:
Delivering homes to meet the needs of local people
· Strive to implement our Local Plan.
· Seek 30% affordable housing on all eligible sites as set out in the emerging Local Plan unless there are prudent reasons not to do so.
· Support our registered provider partners in bids for funding to provide affordable housing in the District.
· Review our nomination agreements with registered providers in the District to maximise affordable housing to tackle demand.
· Work in partnership with developers, land owners and registered providers to deliver quality affordable homes and cohesive vibrant communities.
· Encourage and support low cost home ownership and starter homes in the district in line with national planning policy.
· Encourage and support the provision of self-build and custom build housing
· Deliver a development and acquisitions programme to deliver council housing in the district and maximise the opportunities on council owned land and on private developments.
· Support and facilitate the creation of community land trusts to deliver affordable housing in the district.
· Work with the Rural Community Council of Essex to support the delivery of rural exception sites in our villages.
· Work in partnership with commissioners, specialist providers and other statutory bodies to deliver affordable housing provision suitable for our older people and those who are less able.
· Decide and explore if it is feasible to set up a housing company to deliver affordable housing in the District.
Reducing and preventing homelessness and rough sleeping
· Deliver a new homelessness prevention and rough sleeping strategy in 2019.
· Recruit a Private Sector Accommodation Officer to work with landlords and other private sector providers to deliver more accommodation to reduce homelessness.
· Work in partnership with registered providers to deliver supported temporary accommodation in the district.
· Explore the feasibility of setting up a council leasing scheme to increase the supply of accommodation.
· Reduce reliance on nightly-paid hotel accommodation and seek to eliminate its use by the end of the forthcoming homelessness prevention and rough sleeping strategy.
· Review the impact of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 on current service provision and update policies and procedures accordingly.
· Create tailored information for specific clients most at risk of homelessness and rough sleeping such as care leavers and veterans and develop specialist in-house knowledge to assist the most vulnerable members in our communities.
· Work with the Clacton Town Centre Working Group and other statutory partners to address the housing and social issues in the town.
· Deliver new services to address the needs of rough sleepers and those at risk of sleeping rough.
· Support residents threatened with homelessness as a consequence of welfare changes.
· Review the Housing Allocations Policy to ensure it is compliant with the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and still provides homes for local residents.
· Work with the health and social care sector to improve discharge arrangements for those leaving hospital or care.
Making the best use of and improving existing housing
· Work with planning colleagues and other statutory partners to tackle unlawful houses in multiple-occupation.
· Review our civil penalties policy and HMO licensing policy to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
· Work co-operatively with private landlords and agents to improve conditions in the private sector.
· Publicise and encourage affordable warmth and energy efficiency programmes in the District.
· Deliver a new incentive scheme to assist tenants wanting to move to the right size accommodation
· Discontinue our cash incentive scheme which provides grants to council tenants to purchase private homes.
· Deliver an annual housing investment programme over the course of this strategy.
· Reduce the number of empty homes in the district.
· Publish a revised Financial Assistance Policy for Private Sector Housing during 2019.
Supporting people in their homes and communities
· Encourage a maximum take-up of Disabled Facilities Grants and discretionary loans to support our older and disabled residents to remain in their homes.
· Seek accessible properties as a priority on planning applications where affordable housing is required.
· Undertake a project in partnership with other providers and commissioners to determine the housing aspirations and needs of our older population to facilitate future housing provision.
· Create a new financial assistance policy to help those affected by welfare reform.
· Implement any necessary recommendations following the consultation exercise on the Housing Green Paper “A New Deal for Social Housing” in consultation with our Tenants Panel.
The most relevant of the actions for the Local Plan was that “to seek 30% affordable housing on all eligible sites as set out in the emerging Local Plan unless there are prudent reasons not to do so” such as the impact/implications of matters such as:-
(1) The National Planning Policy on Affordable Housing;
(2) Affordable Housing Delivery; and
(3) Economic viability for both the developer and the landowner.
The Committee was reminded that affordable housing was housing for sale or rent for people whose needs could not be met by the market – i.e. people with lower incomes who could not afford to buy or rent property from the open market. As of March 2019, there were 1,585 households on the housing register, requiring affordable housing in Tendring and the Council’s Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2015) which formed part of the Local Plan evidence base, indicated that 160 new affordable homes were needed, each year (as part of the overall requirement of 550 a year), in order to address existing and projected needs in the period 2013 to 2033. Between 2013 and 2019, the actual delivery of new affordable housing had fallen well short of this requirement for a number of reasons including:
· low levels of housebuilding of all types in the early part of the Local Plan period (reflecting economic and housing market conditions of the time);
· a high proportion of housebuilding on small sites that were below the Local Plan threshold for providing on-site affordable housing; and
· a number of development sites being granted planning permission with either none or a lower number of affordable housing units than were required by the Local Plan.
Whilst affordable housing delivery had been weak in recent years, it was considered that the situation was set to improve rapidly as construction commenced on a greater number of larger development sites across the District and as registered providers such as housing associations, and the Council itself took a more active role in building new property. Between now and 2033, more than 900 new affordable homes were expected to be built as a proportion of homes on large development sites with extant planning permissions, 800 were expected from sites allocated for housing and mixed-use development in the emerging Local Plan and a further 300 were proposed to be developed by the Council. The emerging Local Plan also included a policy that allowed ‘rural exception schemes’ for affordable housing on the edge of villages in order to meet a specific local need which would also make a contribution towards affordable housing delivery and which was supported through the Housing Strategy.
Members were informed that Policy LP5 in Section 2 of the Council’s emerging Local Plan required 30% of all homes on new housing developments of 11 or more units to be provided in the form of affordable housing or ‘council housing’ (i.e. owned and managed by the Council) in order to meet the needs of people and families with lower incomes who could not afford to buy or rent property on the open market. The policy, as currently worded, also offered an alternative route by which developers could provide a minimum of 10% of homes for affordable housing alongside a financial contribution to the Council that could be used for building or acquiring property to meet affordable/council housing needs elsewhere.
The Committee was advised that in recent years, the Council had taken a very flexible approach to the interpretation of Policy LP5 in order to secure a smaller number (often around 5%) of ‘gifted’ dwellings on development sites to be transferred to the Council or a nominated housing trust for a nominal price of £1. This was in response to Government legislation introduced in 2016 which affected the rental model for affordable housing and which made it unviable for housing associations, or the Council, to acquire 30% (or even 10%) affordable housing from large development sites, at a discount, in the traditional manner. Whilst this approach had been a pragmatic solution to the delivery of affordable housing at the time, it had resulted in a large number of housing developments obtaining planning permission, either from the Council or on appeal, with a commitment to deliver only a small number of affordable housing units which, when totalled up, would fall a long way short of meeting Tendring’s future needs. The Council was expected to take receipt of approximately 180 ‘gifted’ units in the next five years and a further 50 would be transferred to the Lawford Housing Enterprise Trust.
It was reported that further changes to Government legislation had now made it viable again for housing associations to build and acquire affordable housing and the Council’s latest Viability Study confirmed that 30% affordable housing was achievable on the vast majority of development sites. Therefore, to ensure that the Council secured the maximum amount of affordable housing in the future, ‘gifted’ units would no longer be accepted as an alternative to the full 30% requirement and the draft Housing Strategy made it clear that gifting would only be considered as an option in exceptional circumstances. In addition, Officers proposed the deletion of the section of Policy LP5 that allowed for the alternative of 10% affordable housing alongside a financial payment or any other alternative forms of delivering affordable housing.
The revised wording of the Policy was set out in the Officer’s report and in Appendix 3 thereto.
Members were aware that the Local Plan had already been submitted to the Secretary of State for it to be examined by a Government-appointed Planning Inspector. The Inspector would however have the power to recommend ‘modifications’ to the Local Plan, following the examination, aimed at addressing any issues with the soundness of the plan. Whilst it would be at the Inspector’s discretion which modifications were formally recommended, the Council would have the opportunity to suggest changes to the Inspector, for their consideration, as part of the examination process. It was therefore the Officers’ recommendation that the changes outlined in the report be put forward to the Inspector for their consideration, at the appropriate time. This was most likely to be in response to the Inspector’s ‘Matters Issues and Questions’ which would be issued to the Council ahead of the Section 2 examination.
The Committee was made aware that any modifications proposed by the Inspector at the end of the examination process might have to be published for consultation in their own right before the Council could proceed to the final adoption of the Local Plan. The amendments being suggested through the Officer’s report were not an indication that the emerging Local Plan as currently written was ‘unsound’, but were aimed at improving the delivery of affordable housing.
Having considered and discussed the information and advice contained in the Officer’s report and appendices thereto:-
It was moved by Councillor Scott, seconded by Councillor Broderick and unanimously:-
RESOLVED that –
a) the current position in respect of affordable housing delivery and the means by which it is proposed that more affordable housing will be delivered in the future, to meet identified needs be noted;
b) the Officers’ suggested amendments to Policy LP5 in the Tendring District Local Plan 2013-2033 and Beyond: Publication Draft (the emerging Local Plan) as set out in the aforementioned report and Appendix 3 thereto be approved; and
c) the Head of Planning be authorised to put forward the suggested amendments to Policy LP5 to the Planning Inspector for their consideration as part of the examination of Section 2 of the emerging Local Plan.