Agenda item

Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2013 (Agenda item 8)

Report of Elizabeth Gould, Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Services and Mark Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development.

 

Executive Members and Executive Support Members are asked to bring their copies of the final draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment document to the meeting.

 

Additional paper copies will be available on the day for other Members of the Council in attendance.

Minutes:

In 2006/07, Fordham Research had undertaken a sub-regional Housing Market Assessment for the rural East Anglia Sub-Region.  Breckland Council had been the lead authority for this work, with Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council and North Norfolk District Council also being partners.  The Assessment had been based on a primary Housing Needs Survey and showed a significant need for affordable housing across all three partner authorities.  In 2010, a brief secondary data update had been undertaken in-house.  These assessments were now at the end of their life and no longer provided sufficient robust evidence to inform strategy, policy and planning decisions.

 

The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman made reference to the comments made by the Commission at its meeting on 18 July 2013 (agenda item 11 refers).   He had thought that this report was going to be a very dour subject but in fact all Members in attendance had found it to be very interesting and had discovered that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment’s data was going to play a crucial role when looking at planning policies in future - particularly the changes required in housing need for single parent families over the next 20 years; and how the Council was going to control the affordable housing provision.  It was noted that all Members of the Commission were 100% behind this Assessment going forward.

 

The Executive Member for Internal Services highlighted paragraph 1.1 of the report which referred to quite an old piece of research and asked if all data was now up to date.  He also asked how the Council was going to guarantee affordability to be able to make up and sustain the deficit of affordable housing particularly when Housing Associations were still selling off properties.  In response to the first question, the Housing Enabling Officer said that the main reason for re-doing the assessment was that the previous data was very outdated and at the end of its life.  In response to the latter, he was not aware of large property sales except for pre 1993 Breckland tenants who still had the right to buy their council houses the income of which was used to fund other properties.  In terms of affordability, funding also came forward from other sources such as S106 monies, Community Infrastructure levies etc.

 

The Executive Member for Internal Services said that he had spoken to the Joint Deputy Planning Manager who had explained the quota of affordable housing figure requirement in Local Plan Policy.  This, in his opinion, was stifling development and he felt that more housing would be built if this requirement was abandoned.  The Joint Deputy Planning Manager added that Breckland was at best delivering between 20% and 25% of affordable housing on larger sites compared to its 40% affordable housing target; however, the report had indicated that the level of need at 40% was still required.  The next step was to have a new Local Plan viability test to see if the amount/quota remained deliverable.  Councillor Kybird pointed out that the report highlighted that such needs were in different geographical areas.  Members were informed that this would come back to the work considered within the new Local Plan.  The Local Plan Working Group would be asked to consider where growth could be accommodated in larger villages and some exception sites.

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development pointed out that paragraph 1.22 of the report highlighted the fact that the older generation was expanding and felt that it was very important that suitable homes were built for these people such as small bungalows or one bed flats.  He raised concerns that such dwellings were not being built at the moment and would cause problems in the future.  The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman advised that the Local Plan Working Group and the Commission would be looking at this.  He stated that when the first Local Plan was produced Breckland Council was working and living in a different environment and he felt that the Council would have no choice but to reduce the percentage of affordable housing taking into account the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).  The facts and figures and projection were fundamentally important as to how Breckland developed its policies and without a really joined up effort the housing that was clearly needed, that this report clearly demonstrated, would not be achieved.  He urged Members to understand what he thought was a brilliant report.

 

Councillor Bambridge agreed with everything that had been said and pointed out that at the recent planning meeting the matter of affordable housing quota had been discussed and was causing much embarrassment at these meetings.  Planning Members also wished to assess the quota sooner rather than later.

 

The Chairman said that he had no problems with the 40% but it should be considered on present day merits – developers who had stalled their developments due to this affordable housing quota needed to be contacted.  It was imperative that Breckland Council assisted and had talks to these developers as soon as possible as the 40% could be mitigated.  The Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Services said that a list had already been created and the Planning Team would be contacting the said developers following the August recess.  It was noted that the 40% affordable housing target did have a viability clause in it and could be negotiated down.

 

The Opposition Leader raised concerns in relation to ‘bedroom tax’ and pointed out that there was a further need for smaller units as he knew of one parent families that were desperate to move out of their current three bed dwellings.  The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman said that was why Breckland needed to liaise with housing providers as they were not building these smaller units and needed to change their building habits.

 

Options

 

Option 1 – Do nothing

 

Not publishing an up-to-date SHMA and using it to develop the housing number and associated housing policies in the Local Plan would place the Plan at significant risk of being found unsound.  Delays in publishing an up-to-date SHMA would have implications for the Local Plan timetable.

 

Option 2 – Consider how the SHMA findings would influence housing numbers and policy in the emerging Local Plan.

 

To recommend that the Cabinet agrees the content of the report which sets out the proposed approach, outputs and reporting for the latest SHMA, and recommend to Full Council that it adopts the SHMA as Breckland Council policy.

 

Reasons

 

To consider the emerging implications arising from the draft Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for the Local Plan.  The Rural East Anglia Partnership SHMA of 2006 (updated in 2010) needed to be replaced.  In order that the Local Plan was robust and stood up to scrutiny, it needed to be based on robust housing market and needs information, which was also required to support planning decisions.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that the Strategic Housing Market Assessment be adopted.

Supporting documents: