POS welcomes the introduction of Starter Homes as a means of bringing forward housing on brownfield and other vacant land. There remains a significant amount of land in urban areas owned by Government departments and agencies such as the Ministry of Defence and Network Rail which could usefully be brought into use to provide homes for those wishing to get onto the housing ladder. This initiative should bring a much needed impetus to freeing up such sites; however, much of the detail is disturbing.
David Evans, POS Immediate Past President, said he has raised a number of concerns with the Starter Homes Technical Working Group. "Even with an initial 20% discount, in much of the country Starter Homes are not likely to be affordable by many key workers such as nurses, teachers, police officers or by those on the lowest incomes." Evans commented.
"There is also a significant risk that on s106 sites if Starter Homes replace affordable housing to rent through Housing Associations then the amount of housing available to these groups will diminish significantly and there will be major recruitment problems particularly in London and the South East. We need local policies based on an assessment of local housing needs and taking into account local viability issues rather than a centrally imposed percentage" Evans added. "The problem is" Evans continued "that since the 1980s when public sector housing development ceased not enough new housing was being built and we are now seeing the result of 30 years of lower housing delivery and the sale of council housing stock."
In the past five years there has been a significant increase in land with planning permission and local authorities have made significant progress in bringing forward new sites in Local Plans. Evans indicated that "Planners have been doing their bit to help the situation but additional new housing delivery organisations are necessary to build the housing the country needs. Government too has an important role to play in identifying sites for major new development of new towns and urban extensions and ensuring that funding is in place for the infrastructure they require."
Mike Kiely, Chair of the POS Board, was concerened insofar as "the big flaw with this model is the 20% discount only lasting for 5 years - it completely undermines this as an 'affordable' solution."
Kiely also commented that "given that these homes have a 20% reduction on their market value it is not the case that they will be 20% cheaper than a local equivalent because that comparator does not have a substantial windfall in 5 years - it will therefore be worth more -this is quite absurd! This is another housing initiative, like Help To Buy, that will drive up house prices."
POS remains concerned about the lack of infrastructure funding - these starter homes will homes generate the demand for infrastructure without any funding for it.
David Evans Mike Kiely