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Delivering Homes Plans

Fri 04 Mar 2016

The article first appeared in The Argus

Will Rutter

Next week sees another conference roll into town.  The annual Chartered Instituted of Housing conference (8-10 March) will see Brighton’s bars and restaurants filled with suited professionals discussing the future of affordable housing nationally.  But what is the outlook for affordable housing in our city?

House prices and rents are set by supply and demand, meaning that without regulations, those on a lower income will never be able to compete.  With Brighton being a destination heavily in demand, and physically restricted by the sea and the South Downs, the battle of supply versus demand is always likely to be a losing one.  Last month the Council’s new City Plan was approved, earmarking sites for the provision of 13,200 new homes.  It sounds a lot, but it is far lower than the original requirement of 30,000 new homes. 

The current government’s policies are focusing on home ownership (always a vote winner) and with a lack of funding for new affordable homes, even charitable housing associations – whose goal is to provide affordable housing for those in need – are starting to focus increasingly on housing for private sale and market rent in order to subsidise other charitable activities.

Affordable housing can be secured by restricting the use of new properties as shared ownership or “affordable rent”.  Shared ownership housing can be sold to households with an income up to £60,000 a year.  Affordable rent means housing where the rent is capped at 80% of the private market rent.  How will those in genuine housing need benefit from these affordable housing products?  Added to that are restrictions to be introduced in the levels of housing benefit, meaning any single person under the age of 35 who is reliant on housing benefit will only be able to receive a shared household allowance.  That will make it difficult to fill one bed affordable housing flats in the new developments to be built.

If the city is to prosper and thrive, there needs to be a housing policy which isn’t skewed to favour those who are older and – by national standards – relatively affluent.  Genuinely affordable housing is needed.  The Council has announced plans to step in and subsidise the building of new genuinely affordable homes in partnership with a strong local housing association.  Such plans are to be welcomed but judgment is reserved until we see the details, and crucially, the delivery.

Will Rutter is a partner in law firm Winckworth Sherwood, specialising in social housing, and a resident of Brighton.

 

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