A couple of weeks ago there was an item on BBC News (10:00pm 23rd Feb) about house affordability:
“Affordable housing is social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices.” [Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government]
While developers are required by local authorities to provide a proportion of affordable homes – often about 30-40% – in any new development, many use “viability assessments” to negotiate down the number by arguing that the requirement would adversely affect their profit margins.
The result is that only 15-20% of new housing is affordable.
Andy Street (West Midlands Mayor) is trialling a new scheme whereby ‘affordable’ is based on a percentage of income with no more than 35% of a person’s annual income being spent on the annual servicing of a mortgage or rental. The objective is for people to own their own home and developers encouraged to build less-expensive but still high quality homes that are truly affordable for the average income-earner in a particular area. This would allow folk to start on the house-owning ladder and also for public servants (e.g. NHS staff) to live closer to their workplace.
Garden Communities built over forthcoming decades with manufactured open-space, non-existent infrastructure needing building from scratch, creation of isolated settlements requiring additional transportation links and the high cost of land (without any form of Land Value Capture) will make buying a GC new house unaffordable for most average wage-earners in Uttlesford.
Yet speculative landowners could derive a 100x return on their land once housing planning permission is granted. (See note 1) And, in addition, not many builders sell a house at a loss…
The average two-bedroomed house in Dunmow costs anything from £200,000 to £400,000 and new-build developers will price according to the market rate for an area. Plus a premium because it’s “new”. Uttlesford may be a relatively affluent area but there are still many people living on below average income for whom affording a mortgage of £200,000+ is a pipe-dream. E.g. A £150,000 mortgage (assuming a £50,000 deposit!) will cost 40-50% of a £25,000 gross wage.
Surely it’s far better to build smaller houses in locations with existing infrastructure, on brown-field sites close to or within existing settlements (big and small) ideally with nearby employment opportunities. And forget ‘manufactured open-space’… nature does a far better job.
UDC need to heed the Inspectors advice on the local plan. Withdraw it. Prepare a new one. Forget large and inflexible Garden Communities. Consider smaller communities in combination with more housing in existing sustainable settlements.
Update 1st August 2020 – On 30th April, by a large majority, UDC voted to withdraw the Local Plan and are currently in the early stages of preparing a new one. A victory for StopEastonPark but we still need continued support to ensure Easton Park is restored back to open space for people to enjoy and a nature sanctuary for wildlife to thrive.
- Agricultural land currently sells for an average of £7-8,000 per acre. From their published accounts we believe Landsec paid just under £12,000 per acre for Easton Park’s 1,700 acres. However, land with planning permission alone currently sells for £1,000,000 (ONE MILLION!) per acre or more! Landsec bought EP some 15 years ago and allowing for open space and s106 agreements, would be disappointed not to make at least 15% compounded annual return purely on the EP land, in a period where the Bank of England base rate has averaged 1.8%! And before a single house has been built!