Council adopts Labour proposal on affordable housing

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At last weeks Full Council meeting councillors voted to support a motion which will make it harder for property developers to shirk their affordable housing obligations through the use of questionable viability assessments.

Speaking in support of the motion and on the need for affordable housing local Charles Dickens ward campaigner Claire Udy said:

“Portsmouth is suffering with record numbers of homeless residents, some on the streets, some in temporary accommodation waiting for their chance to get a home. Developers who are only keen on maximising profits do not care about the housing provision of the most vulnerable in this city. I’ve been in Charles Dickens ward, taking to residents about their concerns. They are asking why there aren’t any homes for their children who now have children of their own. They also wonder why veterans are on the streets.”

This was a key issue highlighted in the recently published report the Portsmouth Labour Plan for Affordable Housing. Commenting on the motion the Chair of Portsmouth Labour Housing Forum Cal Corkery said:

“These viability assessments have been used by unscrupulous developers to get out of providing the affordable housing so desperately needed in our communities. I welcome this motion and am glad it has attracted support from across the political spectrum. Our group will continue to campaign on housing issues and look forward to winning more victories for local people.”

Local campaigners had been hard at work in recent weeks and months seeking cross party backing for these changes to affordable housing planning policy. As a result last weeks motion tabled by the Liberal Democrat group attracted unanimous support from councillors of all parties.

 

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The Growth in Student accommodation and Affordable Housing

This article is part of a series based around our Plan for Affordable Housing which you can read more about here.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.

Between 2011/12 and 2015/16 planning permission was granted for over 2,500 units of new purpose build student accommodation across 17 developments, mainly in the vicinity of the city centre. The previous Portsmouth Plan granted an exemption to student accommodation, so developers weren’t required to contribute towards the provision of affordable housing, as they would if it were a standard residential development.

Other local authorities do require student accommodation developers to contribute towards the housing needs of the local community. For example, in 2011 the London Borough of Southwark chose to extend its affordable housing planning obligations to include student accommodation. Since then the borough has secured significant additional affordable homes as a result.

If student accommodation developers had been required to provide affordable housing in line with obligations on residential sites, then over 750 extra units of affordable housing could have been provided in Portsmouth since 2011. One option could be for a certain percentage of rooms in new halls to be allocated to local young people who have become homeless but wish to continue their studies.

Table 6: student accommodation developments granted planning permission

2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 Total
Number of new student accommodation builds granted planning permission 4 1 1 5 6 17
Total units of student accommodation granted planning permission 112 42 10 1091 1249 2504

Source: data provided by PCC Planning Policy department

The council has told residents the new student accommodation will benefit local people in housing need as capacity is freed up in the private rented sector through former student houses becoming vacant, however there is no clear evidence this will be the case. In fact there are some indications the increase in purpose built student accommodation is actually putting upward pressure on rents in the private residential sector, potentially worsening the situation for those in housing need.

Another problem which seems to have been overlooked so far in discussions on this issue is that of the opportunity cost of almost all the prime development sites in the city centre being used for student accommodation. If these sites were not utilised solely for student accommodation there would be a variety of alternative uses possible, including affordable housing.

We believe developers of purpose build student accommodation should be required to contribute towards the provision of affordable housing in line with sites containing other types of residential accommodation.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.

The Viability Escape Clause for Developers and Affordable Housing

This article is part of a series based around our Plan for Affordable Housing which you can read more about here.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.

The current Portsmouth Plan includes specific requirements for affordable housing provision on market developments. Sites containing a net increase of: 8-10 dwellings must provide 20% affordable housing; 11-14 dwellings must provide 25% affordable housing; and 15+ dwellings must provide 30% affordable housing. In exceptional circumstances where affordable housing cannot be provided on site a developer can propose to build affordable housing off site or pay a financial contribution towards a council housing scheme. Continue reading “The Viability Escape Clause for Developers and Affordable Housing”

What about a council owned affordable housing development company?

This article is part of a series based around our Plan for Affordable Housing which you can read more about here.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.

Across the country growing numbers of councils are attempting to circumvent restrictions placed on their ability to build traditional council housing by forming arm’s length property companies which are then used to invest in affordable housing. These council owned property development companies are able to take advantage of local authorities’ ability to borrow money at sub-market interest rates from the Public Works Loan Board. This finance is then used to address the housing needs of the local community through the development of affordable homes. Continue reading “What about a council owned affordable housing development company?”

More must be done to tackle homelessness

The government has not evaluated the impact of its welfare reforms on homelessness, or the impact of the mitigations that it has put in place, according to the National Audit Office (NAO) which scrutinises how public money is spent.

The number of people sleeping rough on the nation’s streets has more than doubled in recently years whilst there were over 77,000 households in temporary accommodation in England in March 2017, an increase of 60% since March 2011. Continue reading “More must be done to tackle homelessness”

How Much Affordable Housing Has Been Built?

This article is part of a series based around our Plan for Affordable Housing which you can read more about here.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.

The actual provision of affordable housing in Portsmouth has been a fraction of the objectively assessed need with a total of just 320 council and housing association homes completed during the past 5 years.

If we take the low end Partnership for Urban South Hampshire estimate of affordable housing need of 593 units per year then 2965 new affordable housing units were needed between 2012/13 and 2016/17. With just 320 being delivered there was a shortfall of some 2645 affordable homes over this period. Continue reading “How Much Affordable Housing Has Been Built?”

The Need for Affordable Housing

This article is part of a series based around our Plan for Affordable Housing which you can read more about here.

To sign the petition supporting our Plan for Affordable Housing click here.

In recent years a toxic mix of rising rents, stagnant wages, reductions in welfare benefits and cuts to social support services, has led to an increasingly severe housing crisis for the people of this country. Locally this has meant a rise in demand for affordable housing as seen by increases in the level of homelessness and the number of households looking to the council or charities for housing related advice and guidance. Continue reading “The Need for Affordable Housing”