The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods submitted a report inviting the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the proposed first homes technical advice note on the basis that this would form the basis of the council’s guidance to developers.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said that first homes were a new form of low-cost home ownership which would see a developer provide a number of homes to buy at a discount of between 30 to 50% of market price. He said that each local authority would determine the size of the discount to be applied in their area.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said that Officers had conducted analyses that had indicated that the first homes product was not well suited to the East Herts housing market and section three of the report explained this in more detail. He stated that the table at paragraph 3.4 highlighted that the shared ownership home would be affordable for more working households in the District than a first home.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods explained that it was anticipated that the subsidy required by a developer to devote to providing first homes would reduce their ability to provide many or possibly any other affordable housing and would make the inclusion of social rent homes all but impossible.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said that the Council could not prohibit a developer from providing first homes as this was a nationally recognised affordable tenure. He directed Members to paragraph 2.5 for the proposed criteria for first homes and he invited the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider and endorse the proposed first homes technical advice note for presentation to the Executive.
Councillor Goldspink stated that, in relation to the new homes and providing housing for sale at a reduced cost, the report says that Officers do not recommend this option but that developers can provide them if they want to. She asked how developers could make decisions about social housing and where they were built.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said that the majority of new affordable housing in East Herts was provided on private developer sites and in these instances the developer proposed what affordable homes were provided and where they should be in a development. Officers would negotiate with the developer to ensure that the proposals were compliant with the Council’s District Plan, notably that 40% of the homes were affordable with 75% of these being for affordable rent and the remaining 25 % being for shared ownership.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said that the proposed first homes technical advice note sought to strengthen the council’s position when negotiating with developers about the inclusion of first homes. Councillor Goldspink expressed concerns about the developers making decisions about the provision of first homes. She said that the first homes policy statement was the best that could be achieved. Councillor Goldspink expressed her hope that ways could be found for the council to have more control.
Councillor Snowdon said that he was supportive of the advice note and he was also supportive of any proposal that would support home ownership. Councillor Drake asked why four-bedroom houses had not been included in the analysis and was there a reason for this?
The Head of Housing and Health said that due to the amount of subsidy going into large four-bedroom properties, they did not tend to come forward due to the drain on the subsidies available for smaller properties. He said that there was always a finite amount of money available for affordable housing on a site that was developer lead.
The Executive Member for Neighbourhoods said that another consideration was that how many smaller properties would be lost to accommodate four-bedroom properties.
Councillor Goldspink proposed and Councillor Devonshire seconded, a motion that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee endorse the proposed First Homes Technical Advice Note for presentation to the Executive.
After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that Overview and Scrutiny Committee endorses the proposed First Homes Technical Advice Note for presentation to the Executive.