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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 16th January 2013

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Options Appraisal for Land in Housing Services

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To seek approval for Officers to explore all options to increase the supply of affordable housing in the Vale of Glamorgan using land owned by the Council's Housing Service.

2.             To seek approval for Officers to explore opportunities to dispose of small non development land bordering existing properties in order to reduce the financial cost of land maintenance and security on the Housing Revenue Account.

Recommendation

1.             THAT the Committee endorses the report and refers the same to Cabinet for consideration.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             In order that the views of the Committee are sought and the report referred to Cabinet for consideration.

Background

3.             In December 2010, Cabinet agreed the adoption of the updated Vale of Glamorgan Local Housing Market Assessment (LHMA) which had been commissioned from Fordham Research (Cabinet Minute C1154).

4.             The updated LHMA identified that there was a critical need for additional affordable housing, with a requirement of 915 additional units needed per annum. This figure was significantly higher than the equivalent figure of 652 units calculated in 2007. The increase is principally because overall affordability levels in the Vale of Glamorgan have worsened and the supply of housing stock has reduced over the period.

5.             The LHMA identified that the highest need was for social rented units (80%).

6.             The economic crisis experienced nationally has also resulted in a depressed local housing market and an increase in the numbers registering for social housing. Together with new mortgages being more difficult to access, it is expected that the number of people being able to enter the owner occupier market will continue to decrease, making the development of new affordable housing in the Vale of Glamorgan even more important.

7.             The impact of the welfare reforms are also expected to increase the need for more affordable housing units, including one and two bedroom properties to allow existing  tenants effected by the 'bedroom tax' to downsize. 

8.             There are currently two principle mechanisms used to deliver affordable housing. The first is Social Housing Grant (SHG).

9.             SHG is a capital grant made available by the Welsh Government to Registered Social Landlords (RSL's) with the support of the local authority to fund new affordable housing for rent or low cost home ownership.

10.        The SHG programme in Wales has been reduced annually by WG since 2010 and has also been top sliced to fund other housing commitments e.g. Physical Adaptations Grant.

11.         The Welsh Government determines each local authority's allocation using a formula introduced in 2011, which also led to the Vale of Glamorgan receiving a much lower settlement than in recent previous years, as follows:              

          2011/12  - £1,296,499.51                                                                                         

          2012/13  - £1,247,788.38                                                                                     

          2013/14  -  £1,105,635.27

12.        Whilst from time to time, the Welsh Government has made available additional SHG funding for which the Council has submitted successful bids; it has still only provided a small number of new units each year.

13.        The second mechanism for delivering affordable housing is through the Supplementary Planning Guidance for Affordable Housing (SPG). This places the requirement on a developer to provide 30% affordable housing on all sites of ten or more units through a Section 106 legal agreement.

14.        It has become increasingly difficult to secure 30% new affordable housing on each site of the required tenure through this process. This is usually because the land was purchased at the height of the market and due to the economic downturn it is no longer financially viable. The Council then has to decide whether to consider accepting a lower number of affordable housing units to allow the site to be developed.

15.        Given all of these difficulties, it is critical that the Council maximises the resources available for development and is able to consider alternative and innovative methods of securing much needed new social rented housing in the future.

Relevant Issues and Options

16.        The Council has a number of varying sized pieces of land or sites suitable for the development of housing which are in the ownership of Housing Services.

17.        In respect of land pursuant to Part ll of the Housing Act 1985 (the HRA sites) the Council has power pursuant to the Local Government Act 1988: General Consents A & B for Local Authority Assistance for Privately Let Housing 2004 to dispose of land at an undervalue to a Registered Social Landlord for the purpose of development as housing accommodation provided the benefit does not exceed £2million in any financial year (the 2004 Housing Consent).

18.        In addition, the Council also owns small pieces of land bordering existing properties which are too small for development, but which are a financial burden on the Council because of the ongoing maintenance and security costs. Enquiries are regularly received from residents of neighbouring properties who would like to acquire this land to increase the boundary of their home.  

19.        It is therefore proposed that Housing Services undertakes an exercise to identify all sites in its ownership suitable for affordable housing development or disposal and to provide a follow up report of options for Members to consider.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

20.        There are no resource implications in respect of this report as the Housing Land Options Appraisal will be carried out using the existing resources available within Housing Services.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

21.        All new affordable housing developments must meet the requirements of the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, which will assist in minimising the impact on climate change. In addition the proposals will help the long-term sustainability of the Vale of Glamorgan by building good quality environmentally sustainable homes that meet the needs and aspirations of tenants and residents.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

22.        The Legal requirements have been dealt with in the body of the report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

23.        The development of additional affordable housing will have a positive benefit on the reduction of crime and disorder by providing those in housing need with the safety and security of having their own home. There will also be less opportunity for fly tipping and vandalism on the developed sites.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

24.        The development of affordable housing is supportive of the Council's Equal Opportunities ethos as it will increase access to good quality housing for those in housing need throughout the County.  

Corporate/Service Objectives

25.        This report is consistent with the following Corporate and Service Objectives of the Council: Regeneration:                                                                                             

The underlying causes of deprivation are tackled and regeneration of the Vale continues, opportunities for individuals and businesses are developed and the quality of the built and natural environment is protected and enhanced.

Policy Framework and Budget

26.        This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and Budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

27.        There has been no individual Ward Member consultation in respect of this report as it is an issue that affects the whole of the Vale.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

28.        Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Pam Toms, Strategy & Supporting People Manager, Housing Services. (01446) 709788

Officers Consulted

Rob Thomas, Director of Development Services

Clive Teague, Head of Financial Services

Mike Walsh, Legal Services

Lorna Cross, Group Estates Officer

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter, Director of Visible Services and Housing.

 

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