To receive a verbal update from the Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing on progress with the draft Housing Strategy.
The Group received a verbal update from the Corporate Manager for Public Health, Regulation and Housing on the progress of the draft Housing Strategy document. This was now out for formal consultation with a closing date of the end of September. A dedicated web page had been set up to run alongside this.
Westexe Ward members had been approached to seek answers to the following questions with regard to affordable housing:
a) What was the definition of affordable housing?
b) Tiverton had long suffered from a disparity between wages and rents, could MDDC promote a private rent freeze or increases at the lower end of wage and RPI inflation?
c) How was the Housing Strategy planning to tackle the issue of creating more affordable housing?
The following was provided as a response to these questions:
The definition of affordable housing was set out within the draft Housing Strategy and was stated as being homes let at below market rent by a registered provider. The rent was set at up to 80% of local market rent for an equivalent home.
The situation regarding the disparity between wages and rents did not just apply to Tiverton. It was seen up and down the country and in rural areas too where there were particular challenges. There were market forces at play which were beyond the control of MDDC. The district was dependent on its own geography with regard to urban and rural populations and to some extent was better placed that most, for example, coastal areas to meet the needs of its residents. However, it was recognised that demand for affordable accommodation outstripped supply.
Discussion took place regarding:
· How the Council could access Government funds to supply more social housing.
· The need for more ambitious house building targets within the Strategy.
· The seriousness of the housing shortage situation.
· The viability gap affecting rental income.
Following this, a general update was provided by the Forward Planning Team Leader on affordable housing projects. This included the following summary on the numbers of affordable houses delivered on sites in Mid Devon in recent years:
2020 / 2021 30
2019 / 2020 133
2018 / 2019 87
2017 / 2017 115
The Local Plan set out an affordable housing target of 124 per annum based on 30% proportion, subject to viability.
The figure for 2020 / 2021 was significantly lower than previous years and it was thought this may be due the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the construction of new homes and where developers may have focused on market housing. The Forward Planning Team Leader advised the meeting that the Council had recently appointed Arron Beecham to the new post of Principal Housing Enabler and Policy Officer and a key role will be to improve the delivery of affordable housing in the district.
Discussion took place with regard to:
· An inability to provide to projected affordable housing figures for 2021/2022 since monitoring was ongoing and numbers were dependent upon viability which couldn’t be predicted with any certainty.
· There was an important distinction between ‘affordable homes’, being charged 80% of market rents including those delivered by developers through S106 agreements and ‘social housing’ as part of the HRA and being part of the Council’s housing stock with rents controlled through legislation and typically around 50% of market rent.
· Frustration with developers often gaining planning permission to provide sites with affordable housing and then not bringing these to fruition.
· The need to re-establish regular meetings of the Development Delivery Advisory Group (DDAG).
· The need for effective working with Housing Associations and strategic partners.
· More affordable housing being needed in villages.
· The opportunity for Members to comment on village development within the context of the NPPF when the new Local Plan was brought before them for consideration.
· The current Local Plan policy that requires developments of 20 or more homes to include at least 5% for custom and self-build.