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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 15/03/2005
Towards the South East : Regional Housing Strategy



Summary & Purpose
This report outlines the main points of the Consultation Draft of the Regional Housing Strategy as they affect Waverley and includes a draft response from the Council for consideration. The closing date for responses is 16th March 2005.

The Executive considered the matter at its meeting on 1st March and agreed to make a number of observations which are contained at the end of this report. It also agreed to invite the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee to add its own comments to the formal response.

Quality of Life Implications
Natural Resource Use
Pollution Prevention and Control
Biodiversity and Nature
Local Environment
Social Inclusion
Safe Communities
Local Economy
Natural
Resource Use
Pollution
Prevention and Control
Biodiversity
and Nature
Local
Environment
Social
Inclusion
Safe, Healthy
and Active
Communities
Local
Economy
N/A
N/A
N/A
Positive
Positive
Positive
Positive


APPENDIX H
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE – 1ST MARCH 2005

COMMUNITY OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMITTEE - 15TH MARCH 2005

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Title:
TOWARDS THE SOUTH EAST: REGIONAL HOUSING STRATEGY

[Wards Affected: All]
_________________________________________________________________________

Summary and purpose:

This report outlines the main points of the Consultation Draft of the Regional Housing Strategy as they affect Waverley and includes a draft response from the Council for consideration. The closing date for responses is 16th March 2005.

The Executive considered the matter at its meeting on 1st March and agreed to make a number of observations which are contained at the end of this report. It also agreed to invite the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee to add its own comments to the formal response.

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Quality of life implications – social, environmental & economic (sustainable development):

E-Government implications:

There are no e-government implications.

Resource and legal implications:

There are no legal implications arising from this report. There are no direct resource implications, but the consultation document does seek views as to how the Regional Housing Board might distribute its resources in support of housing initiatives across the region. This does have potentially important implications as to how new affordable housing is funded into the future.

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Introduction

1. The South East Regional Housing Board is currently consulting on its draft housing strategy entitled ‘Towards the South East.’ This document is a housing strategy for the South East region, which will cover the period 2006-9. The document sets out priorities for investment and suggests a framework for allocating resources from the Regional Housing Pot. The strategy will be followed by an investment plan that will cover the years 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.

2. At this early stage, it is estimated that the Regional Housing Pot will consist of 169 million to support the development of affordable housing within the South East between 2006-8.

South East Regional Plan

3. In addition to the draft regional housing strategy, the South East Regional Assembly (SEERA) has prepared a regional plan for the South East. The South East Plan includes important choices about development in the region to 2026.

4. SEERA has decided that the consultation should focus on options for three levels of growth across the region and on two options for distribution of that growth.

5. The three levels of growth are :

25,500 dwellings per annum (a lower figure than the current planned rate);
28,000 dwellings per annum (approximately the current planned rate); and
32,000 dwellings per annum (higher than the current planned rate)

6. The South East Plan proposes a requirement of 40% affordable housing on suitable sites, with 25% in the form of rented accommodation.

7. The consultation period will continue until 15th April 2005 and the Planning Department will be preparing a report for members on the implications for Waverley Borough Council. Regional Housing Strategy : Implications for Waverley

8. It is the view of officers that this Regional Housing Strategy addresses many of the key issues effecting authorities in the South East of England. The principles enshrined in the strategy to promote the development of affordable housing are supported. One of the key priorities contained in the strategy is to build more houses to address the undersupply of affordable housing in the South East.

9. The Regional Housing Board has made strong representations to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) about the need to shift emphasis away from home ownership options for key workers toward those in housing need. The plan proposes that two thirds of allocations should support the development of social rented accommodation. This would assist the Council in targeting provision towards those households in greatest need. One of the issues that has arisen in Waverley is that some key worker home ownership schemes promoted by the Government have simply not been affordable in the Waverley context, because the starting point of any calculation is the open market value of the home concerned. With very high open market values, many key workers on modest salaries cannot afford some of the home ownership models currently available. This is a region-wide issue.

10. The Regional Housing Strategy proposes a broadening of the definition of key workers to include other low paid essential workers who make a vital contribution to towns and villages. This would enable the Council to exercise a greater degree of local discretion, in order to assist a greater number of workers who provide essential services, which are beneficial to the community in Waverley. The Council itself recognised some time ago that the Government’s definition of ‘key worker’ was too restrictive and has already adopted a definition of ‘essential worker’ to use on schemes it promotes with partners to enable more scope and flexibility.

11. The plan proposes to continue to fund development in the growth areas. Growth areas in the South East were identified in the Sustainable Communities Plan (2003) viz: Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale; Ashford; and the Thames Gateway. The plan also proposes building more homes where there is high housing need, homelessness and social exclusion. The methodology of how to establish which areas are in greatest need is still under discussion.

12. Potentially, all development supported by an allocation from the Regional Housing Board will need to achieve a minimum Eco-Homes rating of “very good.” The Council is already putting this ethos into practice on developments such as Kilnfields in Haslemere whereby all houses and bungalows have achieved a “very good” rating and two properties have gone onto attain the “excellent” status. The Council, would wish to support the Regional Housing Strategy in promoting developing Eco-homes to the ‘very good’ standard.

13. It is proposed the current levels of funding for the development of affordable housing in rural areas should be maintained, which would support the Council’s continuing work in rural parts of the borough. This is welcomed.

14. The plan divides the South East Region into 21 sub-regional housing markets and Waverley is split between 2 regions. One is the Blackwater Valley sub-region, which includes Farnham; and the Guildford and Woking sub-region, which includes the remainder of Waverley. Officers are involved with forums in both regions in order to represent the needs of the authority.

15. The plan also recommends:

all developments should have a minimum density of 40 dwellings per hectare;
more houses should be built on urban brown field sites;
unfit public sector housing should be renovated; and
meeting the decent homes standard.

Financial Implications

16. From the 169,000,000 of funding from the Regional Housing Board (RHB), 20% will be used within designated growth areas. Like all Surrey authorities, Waverley does not fall within any of these areas, and so the Council will not be eligible for this portion of RHB funding which represents around 33,800,000. 17. The remaining 80% of funding via the RHB (which represents 135,200,000) will be distributed throughout the region. 80% of this amount (which equates to 60% of the overall pot) will be allocated within the 30 authorities that the ODPM has identified as having the ‘greatest needs’.

18. Waverley, like most Surrey authorities, does not have enough housing need, in relative terms, to be in the group that comprises the thirty local authorities with the highest need. Reigate and Banstead is the only Surrey authority which belongs to the high need group. Potentially, therefore, Surrey Local Authorities and Housing Associations will only be able to bid along with the other non-high need authorities for a share in the remaining 33,800,000 from the Regional Housing Board (see figure 1) of which Surrey will be eligible for 14,534,000.

Figure 1

Determining Housing Need

19. Officers support the view that allocations should formulaically be directed toward the authorities that are in greatest need. However, the current banding of authorities into high and low need categories would result in Waverley being ineligible for a significant proportion of future funding. 20. The methodology used to highlight which authorities are in greatest need, places Surrey at a disadvantage. The analysis is based upon indicators concerning affordability, number of homeless households and number of households in temporary accommodation. 21. A measurement of the number of households in temporary accommodation does not take into account new and existing supply and the subsequent impact upon the time taken to re-house households or the proportion of stock which can be used to re-house families.

22. Affordability has been calculated by examining the income of households in the lowest quartile. As Surrey contains pockets of extreme affluence, this can obscure the spread of incomes and hide patterns of deprivation.

23. Twelve alternative options to identify areas of greatest housing need in the South East region have been proposed in a supplementary paper to the Regional Housing Strategy. Officers advocate supporting the application of option 9, which measures levels of affordability temporary accommodation. This option places Waverley and 5 other Surrey Local Authorities into the high need band.



Option 9: Affordability and Temporary Accommodation (proportional measure) Indicators only. Equal weighting.

Conclusion

24. There a more resources potentially available to support affordable housing in the South East and this is to be welcomed. However, at the same time, there is a move to develop significant volumes of new homes in particular areas. It is expected that 14,534,000 will be available to local authorities and housing associations in Surrey in 2005/07. This is very disappointing when compared to the 9,356,453 of resources allocated by the Regional Housing Board to support affordable housing in Waverley alone between 2004-2006.

25. Therefore, these proposed levels potentially represent a significant drop in investment for Waverley Borough Council and other Local Authorities and housing associations across Surrey.

Executive Comments

26. The Executive reached the following conclusions at its meeting on 1st March:

a. the proposal that there should be 40 dwellings per hectare on new developments is noted. However, Waverley considers that this approach could be detrimental to achieving sustainable communities. In some areas, it would be wholly out of character for 40 dwellings to be developed per hectare – particularly in sensitive historic locations. In planning terms, as the South East Plan Policy H2 and Councillor Tool Kit outline, density is only one of the factors that is taken into consideration. A numbers driven policy – such as this - is not helpful in trying to secure appropriate, sustainable developments in areas that have particular environments that need to be protected or enhanced;

b. following on from (a.) above, there is a concern that there may be an over-emphasis on the provision of one-bedroom flats to meet current demand. Waverley would like to see such an approach resisted. If we are to truly achieve sustainable communities and long-term solutions to housing need, it is clear that most households – even single person households – require two bedrooms. For example, many single-person households have children from previous relationships and caring responsibilities and often require a second bedroom. Home working is also more practicable when there is space to set up an ‘office’. A second bedroom is a marginal cost in the scale of things – especially when compared to re-housing people;

c. there is concern that the Regional Housing Strategy does not look forward far enough in terms of future housing need/demand; nor does it project census figures forward far enough, and it appears to assume that the current dynamic within the housing market will remain constant into the future. There is no real ‘sensitivity analysis’ to assess the impact of the variables that may affect the housing market into the future;

d. the Regional Housing Strategy does not seem to have taken on board the proposals contained within the Barker Report and the implications of ‘development impact assessments’. And yet, the implications of reducing levels of public subsidy in many parts of the South East will have a direct effect on the viability of housing schemes where there is a significant requirement through Section 106 Agreements. It is hoped that the Regional Housing Board and the Government Office of the South East and, indeed, the ODPM itself will provide guidance to help local authorities, developers and the planning inspectorate understand better the implications of how competing demands on developers are to be fairly assessed and determined;

e. Waverley warmly welcomes the Eco-homes proposals contained within the Regional Housing Strategy and the creation of a significant shift towards the very good standard;

f. in terms of the appropriate weighting for allocations, Waverley considers that Option 9 should be the approach adopted, as it best reflects the balance of challenges facing the South-East as a whole. A more simple formula assessment of need with no differentiation between high and low need authorities would be fairer to all authorities;

g. it is Waverley’s view that 60% of new resources be directed towards developing rented accommodation – because so many people simply cannot afford to access shared-ownership opportunities;

h. the definition of keyworker needs to be widened to include other workers essential to the local community and economy;

i. the regional provision of housing in rural areas should be increased from the proposed 360 new affordable homes to 500 affordable homes per year and that the Board’s attention be drawn to the rural nature of parts of Waverley;

j. a portfolio of public sector land be created to support a revolving grant fund;

k. it is considered that the description of Guildford-Woking sub-market, as described in the Consultation Paper, should read 'include substantial rural settlements in Waverley and Guildford';

and

3. the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee be invited to add its comments and observations to the Council’s response to the Regional Housing Strategy consultation.

Observations of Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee

27. In accordance with the wishes of the Executive, this Committee is invited to add any comments it may have to those already made by the Executive, thus enabling the Council’s formal response to be submitted. (To assist Members of the Committee, a summary extract from the South East Regional Housing Strategy headed ‘The Way Forward’ is attached at Annexe 1).

Recommendation

That the observations outlined in paragraph 26 above, together with any further views expressed by this Committee, form the basis of the Council’s response to the Consultation Paper on the Regional Housing Strategy.

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Background Papers (DoH)

RHB (2005); Consultation Questionnaire

RHB (2005); Towards the South East Regional Housing Strategy Options for identifying
areas of greatest housing need in the South East region

Towards the South East; Regional Housing Strategy
http://www.go-se.gov.uk/key%20business/housing/housingrhs.html

ODPM (2003) Sustainable Communities Plan
http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_communities/documents/divisionhomepage/034686.hcsp

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mr D January Telephone: 01483 - 523361

E-mail: djanuary@waverley.gov.uk

comms/O&S2/04-05/094