Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Cabinet Decision: 14th February 2008
Title of Item/Report
Delivering Affordable Housing
Record of the Decision
Cabinet considered a report that proposed the introduction of an affordable Home Ownership Policy.

Members noted that, nationally, house prices had doubled relative to individual earnings since 1990. Over recent years average house prices in the borough have risen substantially. In June 2004 the average house price was 116,578, by June 2007 this had increased by 34% to 156,022. This coupled with increased mortgage costs had impacted on the ability of many households to enter the housing market.

It was explained that the Government believed everyone should have the opportunity of a decent home, which they could afford and within a sustainable mixed community. In order to achieve this, Government advocated a vital role for local authorities through their strategic planning and decision-making responsibilities. There were 3 themes to national affordable housing policy:

a. Providing high quality homes in mixed sustainable communities for those in need;
b. Widening the opportunities for home ownership; and
c. Offering greater quality, flexibility and choice to those who rent.

The Governments commitment to delivering affordable housing had been reiterated in the recently released ‘Planning Policy Statement 3 (PP3) Housing' and the Housing Green Paper ‘Homes for the Future: More Affordable, More Sustainable'.

Affordable housing included not only traditional social housing provided by local authorities and Registered Social Landlords, but also intermediate tenure housing (i.e. discounted market housing, shared ownership and equity share). Members were provided with a definition of ‘affordability' and further information regarding the different types of affordable housing.

In 2006, the Housing Service commissioned a Local Housing Assessment (LHA). The purpose of the LHA was to provide a better understanding of the local housing market, the key drivers of local housing demand and supply and the level of housing need within the area.

In order to address the overall shortage of affordable housing the LHA proposed that 9% of all new housing development over the next five years should be classed as affordable, which equated to 200 actual dwellings over the same period. However, since some smaller sites may be unable to deliver any affordable dwellings it was recommended that overall, 15% of all new residential development (of sites of over 15 units) be affordable.

In order to deliver affordable housing units the Housing Service had been working in partnership with colleagues in Planning and Regeneration. As new planning applications came forward developers were advised of the requirement for affordable housing. Detailed negotiations then took place with the developer to agree the number of affordable housing units to be delivered.

The Council had been successful in securing affordable housing provision on a number of sites for example in December 2007 a Section 106 agreement was signed which ensured a developer contribution of 56 affordable housing units on the ‘Corus' site (on this occasion the agreement reached is to deliver at a ‘discounted' price).

The current housing register only registered a household's interest in renting from the Council or a Registered Social Landlord. It was therefore proposed that the Council introduce an Affordable Home Ownership Register (and associated eligibility and selection criteria). The Affordable Home Ownership Register would be a mechanism to ensure that affordable homes for sale were offered to local people who could not afford to buy on the open market and to ensure this was undertaken in a fair and transparent manner. It was proposed to align the Affordable Home Ownership Register with other low cost home ownership initiatives introduced by Government (‘Homebuy' schemes) and English Partnerships (‘First Time Buyers Initiative'), thereby expanding the potential range of options open to applicants.

A draft eligibility criteria was provided to Members as was a proposed selection/ short listing criteria

A detailed procedural guide for the proposed Home Ownership Register was being complied. It was recommended that the final version of this be signed off by the Corporate Director of Development and Neighbourhood Services, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Community and Community Safety.

In order to move the Register forward it was proposed to appoint an Affordable Housing Team Leader.

As this would be the first scheme of this nature introduced by the Council it was recommended that an initial review be undertaken six months after implementation and from then on an annual basis. In addition to operational issues, the annual review would also take into consideration the conclusions of the updated LHA, other relevant research, best practice and changing national policy.

RESOLVED that

1. the introduction of an Affordable Home Ownership Policy (as detailed within the body of the report) be approved and delegated approval of the final terms and conditions of the scheme be given to the Corporate Direct of Development and Neighbourhood Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety.

2. delegated authority be given to the Corporate Director of Development and Neighbourhood Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety to sign-off the final version of the Affordable Home Ownership procedural guide.

3. delegated authority be given to the Corporate Director of Development and Neighbourhood Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety to undertake a regular review of the Affordable Home Ownership Policy and make any necessary amendments/updates, (an initial review to be undertaken 6 months after implementation and then on an annual basis).
Reasons for the Decision
To maximise the opportunities for residents within the Borough to access homeownership.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
None
Declared (Cabinet Member) Conflicts of Interest
Councillor Nelson declared a personal non prejudicial interest in the item as he was a member of Tristar Management Board.
Details of any Dispensations
Not Applicable
Date and Time by which Call In must be executed
By no later than midnight on Friday 22nd February 2008
Attachment

Date of Publication: 18 February 2008


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