Recession wrecks hopes of affordable homes

NOW is the time to grab yourself a field, slap in an application for 1,000 homes – preferably four-bed detached ones or luxury flats – and get building.

No need to worry about constructing any affordable homes because all the authorities want is to kick-start the housing market.

Doesn’t really matter that we need affordable homes more than any other, if you just tell the council your development won’t be all that profitable then you will get the OK.

At the moment, Suffolk Coastal is receiving 100 applications a month for social housing.

We have been desperate for more homes for rent or part-buy, part-rent homes, but for years not enough have been built.

In Felixstowe – where the need in the district is greatest – in the past year, developers with permission to build have been returning to the council pleading for changes to their planning consent.

They have either been asking to cut the number of affordable homes they should be building or build none at all.

Most Read

Among such schemes is the project currently under way at the convent grounds, the old piggeries at Trimley St Martin, and conversion of the Waverley.

In the latest, Landro Ltd’s �15m conversion of Cliff House and a new block of apartments alongside have been granted consent to be built without any affordable homes – even though 18 should be provided.

Now NHS Suffolk has told Suffolk Coastal it will not be building the ten affordable homes it should in the conversion of the Bartlet Hospital – because it would not be viable. It’s not even up to them! They are not the developers.

It’s more a case of we don’t want social homes in our posh development.

Usually 30 per cent of homes in a project of more than three houses should be homes for rent. At the moment, dozens are being lost and those who need homes the most are suffering the worst.

The conundrum is how to provide them and get the economy moving.

Partly the problem comes down to profit. On a housing project, a developer would expect to make 17pc to 20pc profit.

If you can show the council that because of the need to build affordable homes and because of the recession, this has dropped to, say, a miserly 15pc, social housing can be excluded.

Should someone be entitled to make �3m profit on a development in the first place is up for debate.

While you can’t blame a developer for wanting to make as many bucks as possible, Suffolk Coastal appears to be the bad guy in all this, and that’s a little unfair.

Most people would say the council should be stronger – either rejecting any cut in affordable housing (after all, these permissions were given a long time ago) and tell the developer to bide their time, or simply to make a much smaller cut than requested.

But the real culprits are government ministers who are instructing councils to do this to help kick start the building industry.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter