How Many Houses?
Look carefully at the way in which the housing “need” is calculated. It is seriously flawed. The “need” is not based on empty homes, how fast all of our houses were selling, nor how many people are homeless that Councils could be required to house. Instead it is based on how many homes were built previously and an expectation that we should continue at more or less the same rate. They then add other factors, such as increasing longevity and assume that will mean still more houses, whereas it might mean more sharing, or smaller units. Where the economic decline demonstrates a drop in demand over the past five years, the advice is to draw a straight line upward trajectory, based on a longer period before the crash, such as 20 years. In my view, this is not a reflection of “need” at all, but indicates a simple desire to keep building houses at the fastest rate possible, fuelled by government underwriting weaker loans with our money.
I have also been looking at how the amounts of money available for infrastructure, because I see at planning that it is never enough to meet the identified needs. For example, we recently had almost 1,500 houses approved at Sleaford recently but not enough money for a link road alongside the development to improve access.
There are two problems that stop us getting the money we need:
- The money is a one off and the people who move in have on-going needs but the public purse is limited and diminishing, so our resources have to stretch further to cope with more people. So it may pay for a surgery building, but not for the medical services to go in it. The NHS still has to find the money to provide the services on a budget which is already massively over spent.
The Councils get a “bribe” of extra council tax called “new homes bonus”, but that was money top-sliced away from us in the first place. The amount of our income tax coming back to local councils is getting less, 40% less over this parliament and we are told to expect further reductions at the same rate.
- You would think the needs created by the new houses would be calculated and the development asked to pay for them. Instead it is limited by what the developer says he can afford. We may never see the figures as they can be kept “confidential” by an external consultant. Amazingly, several very reliable sources tell me they start with creaming off 20-25% of the cash outlay as developers profit. The profit that is extracted first is on the cash outlay, which includes money borrowed from the bank, in order to keep the developer’s risk low. Thus the percentage profit on the actual sum put forward by the developer is enormous. Worse, we see developers put in a bigger area of land than intended to develop, with a marsh or brownfield site for example, and then seek compensation as his profit has been reduced by the marsh or brownfield.
Having subtracted the developer profit, the costs, etc, then the consultants tell us what is left for the community infrastructure and we are invited to allocate it, contributing towards but not fulfilling the proven need.
On top of that, the developer can come back later if the houses sell for less than originally expected and seek further reductions in the amount of affordable housing.
I do not blame the developers for taking full advantage of this gift horse while we find we cannot provide the essential services. We already see long waits for doctors’ appointments, not enough school places, failing hospitals, local services such as youth services and libraries lost or declining.
We have here a seriously bad policy thrust on us by national government and we should fight it all the way. Unfortunately the local Conservative councils seems to acquiesce or even encourage this policy of massive housing development, instead of working for incremental development at a pace we can manage, to support the needs of the people of Lincolnshire.
Below is the information from the planning advisory service on
How to calculate housing need? http://www.howmanyhomes.org/resources/Choice_of_Assumptions.pdf on the very clear website “www.Howmanyhomes.org”
How to calculate 106 agreement amounts? http://www.pas.gov.uk/3-community-infrastructure-levy-cil/-/journal_content/56/332612/4090701/ARTICLE on the Planning advisory website. I think the original is just as clear as his interpretation, so I have not troubled you with the extra.