A concerted drive to increase the availability of affordable housing in both rural and urban areas is being strangled by Government policies which are being circumnavigated by developers, a council has said.
Hambleton District councillors have voiced frustration over its continuing inability to meet its affordable housebuilding target.
It has released figures showing in the last quarter of 2017 it met 52 per cent of its target of 120 below market value homes, which aims to ensure local people are able to afford to live in the places where they were brought up, work, or have family connections.
The calls for action come as Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, warned that impending changes to the National Policy Planning Framework could see more than 160,000 new homes bypassing councils’ Local Plans which guide where houses can be built and the proportion of them that are affordable.
Last week, research by The Town and Country Planning Association suggested two per cent of councils in England felt new development in their area met policy requirements for affordable housing.
The association said the finding highlighted the lack of resources at local authorities trying to meet demand for affordable homes.
A meeting of the North Yorkshire district council’s scrutiny committee heard its efforts were also being hit by a government policy to foster small-scale village developments, leading members to call for action.
Councillor Geoff Ellis said the Government policy of allowing no affordable housing on developments of ten or less properties had “destroyed the provision of affordable housing in villages”.
He added: “Why would you sell an affordable housing plot for about £7,000 to £8,000 when you can get £100,000 for a market value housing plot?
“There is no incentive for landowners to sell land for affordable housing adjacent to a village because in general they can obtain planning permission for developments of up to ten market value houses.”
Cllr Ellis said a rash of planning applications to build nine or ten home developments had been submitted recently.
He said: “The only affordable housing we are going to achieve in rural areas now is on sites of over ten houses.
“This is a big concern for everyone as elderly people can’t afford to move near their children and young people can’t get on the housing ladder.”
He said the issue was particularly acute in villages which had been recognised by estate agents as having higher property values.
Cllr Ellis said: “There is still a massive demand for affordable houses in villages so people can live near their families, but Government policies are precluding us from them being built.”
Hambleton council points towards a loophole at the stage of the planning process where developers of large and medium-sized estates are allowed to claim the requisite number of below market value properties would make their schemes unviable, due to costs such as clearing contamination or building roads.
The Tory-run authority’s leader, Councillor Mark Robson has called for a stringent Government policy to stop developers using unforeseen costs as a reason for building estates with less than its targets of 40 or 50 per cent affordable housing.
He said: “When a developer takes a piece of land and knows there is an affordable housing target, it should do its homework and not pay too much for the land if there is an issue such as contamination. Authorities need the Government to stop this loophole that allows developers to go down this route.”
Councillor Robson cited examples of the large-scale developments such as Sowerby Gateway, near Thirsk or North Northallerton, where affordable housing targets had been significantly lowered due to the infrastructure costs, such as road or bridge building.