Re-think of Enfield flats over affordable homes money

Councillors have called for a rethink of plans for a new block of flats because of lack of support for affordable housing.

Enfield planning officers had recommended giving the go-ahead to proposals to knock down two detached houses on The Ridgeway and build a two-storey block of flats on the site.

They said the nine flats – a mix of two and three-bed homes – would “optimise the site to its greatest extent” without harming the character of the surrounding area.

But councillors raised concerns over a financial assessment that stated the developer only needed to pay around 60 per cent of the expected sum of money to provide affordable homes in the borough.

Steven Woods, who lives in neighbouring Woodridge Close, spoke out against the plans at a meeting of the planning committee on Tuesday (April 23).

He said: “These properties are luxury apartments – why are the council proposing to take lower payments?

“I would ask the people on this committee, ‘do they think this development is going to benefit many people in Enfield or few people?’

“I am someone who looks at the many, not the few.

“Only a few people are going to benefit and make hundreds of thousands, if not millions – and we are compromising the money we are going to be taking from them in contributions.”

Enfield Council has a target of ensuring half of all homes on new developments are classed as affordable.

When this is not possible – such as on smaller sites with lower profit margins – developers are asked to pay a sum of money to help build affordable homes on other sites.

The applicant, Landvest Developments, submitted a viability report drawn up by Arebray Development consultancy – which was independently assessed by a commercial surveyor – stating it could make a contribution of £161,730 towards affordable homes.

That is only 60 per cent of a “normally expected figure” of £271,296 for developments of a similar scale.

Cllr Chris Bond, Labour member for Southbury, told the committee: “We should be getting £271,000.

“At this austere time that we are still in, I think it is amazing that someone is getting away with £100,000 less.

“Quite simply, they are not paying us the right amount of money.

“I will be looking at this figure more closely in future.”

Andy Higham, the council’s head of development management, said: “Officers take the issue of affordable housing contributions very seriously.

“It is not always possible on a scheme to get what we require. We have secured a good position using the same consultant we used on a scheme up in Cockfosters.”

But Labour member for Lower Edmonton Cllr Sinan Boztas said: “The affordable housing contribution needs to be higher for an area like Highlands.

“These figures need to be reconsidered.”

Councillors voted by a large majority to defer the application so the affordable homes contribution could be reconsidered.

The issue of developers making low contributions towards affordable housing was recently raised at a planning meeting in neighbouring Barnet.

Labour councillors there called on planning officers to drive a harder bargain after one developer backed down on claims it could not pay the full sum demanded by the Barnet Council and pledged to up its previous offer by more than £200,000.

Source: By Simon Alin

430 homes and retail units plan for Stafford

More than 400 homes and retail units are set to be built in Stafford if planning bosses give the development the nod. green light.

The outline application for 430 homes and up to 575 sq m of retail space for land off Fairway in Littleworth has been recommended for approval by Stafford Borough Council’s officers, and the planning committee is set to make a decision next Tuesday week at a special meeting.

St Modwen Developments Ltd submitted the plans more than a year ago, and it has been called in to be considered by the committee by ward councillors over concerns that the area will cope with the extra traffic.

But officers have recommended the outline plans are approved at the meeting on April 30, subject to conditions.

The application site covers 23ha of land and is bounded by St Leonard’s Avenue/Fairway to the west, the West Coast Main Railway Line (WCMRL) to the south and by open land to the east and north, leading to the River Sow, with housing on Tixall Road beyond.

The application said the development would offer: In the plans it says: “In summary, the proposed site offers a full range of public amenities within a 1km distance.

“It has excellent transport links which make it a viable place to live for people of all ages and physical abilities, with higher than average railway connections and within walking distance from the town centre.

“It has numerous safe and convenient cycle and pedestrian routes that connect with local developments and facilities.“A wide variety of opportunities for employment with the town centre only 1km away, plus good access to facilities outside the town, such as the university, hospital and numerous leisure opportunities.

This would be in addition to “An opportunity to provide new build housing that is designed for modern standards of living in a location where there is little new development.”

“A settlement opportunity that is both accessible to existing amenities and town centre, whilst also on the edge of large green spaces leading out to open countryside.”

The site was previously occupied by the company Aviva, which had industrial buildings covering approximately 50 per cent of the overall area.

Only details of access have been submitted for approval at this stage. Current access to the site is off the roundabout that connects Fairway (north) and St Leonards Avenue (west).

Minor amendments will be made to the access road within the site in order to provide wider footways and grass verges.

If the outline plan is approved by councillors next week, the finer details will have to be approved in a reserved matters application at a later date.

Source: By  Jordan Reynolds

Study: 8 Million Middle-Income Seniors Will Struggle To Afford Housing

More than half of U.S. seniors considered “middle income” won’t be able to afford assisted living and other forms of senior housing a decade from now, according to new research published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs.

The study, led by NORC at the University of Chicago and researchers from Harvard Medical School, shows a critical void in future U.S. housing needs at a time when more than 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 each day.

Though the housing market for Americans in need of assisted and independent living has greatly expanded, the cost is often out of reach for an increasing number of people considered middle income who are 75 and older.

“There’s a huge underserved market here,” Robert Kramer, founder and strategic advisor at the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, a nonprofit that provides data and analytics and works with investors and providers of senior housing. National Investment Center funded the NORC and Harvard research.

The study said 54% of middle-income seniors, or nearly 8 million people, will not be able to afford annual costs of $60,000 for assisted living, independent living or other housing related costs even if they allocated all of their annual resources to such housing. “Even assuming that seniors draw from their housing equity in addition to their income, 7.8 million (54 percent) middle-income seniors in 2029 will have annual financial resources of $60,000 or less,” the study shows.

1.5% of Kenyans gross salary to subsidize the Affordable Housing Scheme

The Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works in Kenya released a public notice directing employers to start deducting 1.5% of their staff salaries as housing levy and submit the deductions to the National Housing Development Fund (NHDF).

The employer is also required to send the deduction together with other payroll statutory deductions to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) by the 9th of every month starting on May 2019.

The directive states, “Both the employer and the employee shall each contribute 1.5% of the employee’s gross salary, so long as the sum of the total monthly contributions shall not exceed five thousand shillings. Failure to forward the contributions on time shall attract a penalty of 5 percent of the contributions payable by the employer for each month or part of the amounts remain unpaid.”

How the levy shall be put into work

The Housing Fund Levy is intended to back up the Affordable Housing Scheme which is set to deliver 500,000 houses in five years’ time to the low income earners. Mr. Peter Karanja, KPMG Kenya tax partner expounded the idea saying that 2.4 million Kenyans who earn not more than US $100 qualify for a mortgage under the affordable housing scheme.

About 77,000 high-earning Kenyan employees will not be eligible for the mortgage however they will make the monthly contributions anyway. Following a 2017 statistical index by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the government can collect US $473m annually from the house levy. Half of this amount is collections from the employers which goes to aid affordable housing while the rest is contributors’ funds dedicated to the cost of the house.

Just in case a contributor is not shortlisted for a home under the scheme, his/her levy can be transferred to a pension scheme, to another person under the affordable housing scheme or cash out after exit.

Source: By  Patrick Mulyungi

Namibian Housing Agency Commits $10m to Informal Housing

NHE spokesperson Eric Libongani told The Namibian last week that the proposed pilot project would be implemented in Windhoek’s Katutura and Otjomuise townships before it is rolled out to other towns.

The NHE is the entity with the mandate for housing provision countrywide.

According to a public notice issued by the NHE this month, the proposed project would only benefit people who have plots registered in their names, or those with lease agreements with the City of Windhoek.

Such plots, the notice stated, should be connected to basic services such as water and electricity.

“Information sessions will be arranged and announced in due course,” the public notice read.

“Katutura and Otjomuise were strategically selected because there are many households in these areas that have plots but do not have formal structures on them,” Libongani stated. Beneficiaries would be chosen on a first-come-first-served basis, the notice said.

The NHE credit policy dictates that only people who earn no more than N$20 000 as monthly salary (gross salary including housing allowances and subsidies) can qualify for up to a N$600 000 housing loan.

The current maximum loan repayment period is 20 years, and beneficiaries are required to at least put down a 10% deposit of the value of the property.

The entity, however, did not disclose the number of houses to be built under this project.

Libongani said the availability of funds would determine the number of houses to be built and/or upgraded, and the type of housing clients may choose.

The pilot project, he added, would only target people who cannot obtain a bank loan.

He also did not explain where the NHE would get the projected N$10 million to fund the proposed project, expected to be completed within one year.

Critics, including the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement and some opposition parties, argued that the proposed project was a ploy to deceive the public into thinking that the current administration was concerned and committed to solving the housing crisis in the country.

AR activist Job Amupanda said it was a ploy by the ruling party’s government to deceive the electorate into believing that Swapo was concerned about solving the housing problem in the country.

Amupanda added that the proposed project shows that the government was not serious about housing provision because “the fundamentals such as the Flexible Land Tenure Act and other enabling legislation that would have dealt with the housing issue are not handled”.

“What is scandalous and laughable is that they are talking about the informal settlements, but they don’t have a framework to deal with that in terms of housing finance. For an institution like that, you don’t just intervene for the sake of it, but you need to have an institutional framework. So, all those things are not explained to us,” he said.

Amupanda furthermore claimed that the ruling party was using the issue of housing provision for electioneering purposes because some NHE board members, such as chairperson Sam Shivute, were part of the Swapo think tank, who also drafted the party’s election manifesto. “All we see is just an electioneering poster. This is all that they needed to do to mislead people. It gives them room to say – this is what NHE is going to do, and they put it in their manifesto to mislead people to vote for them,” he said.

RDP parliamentarian Mike Kavekotora, who criticised the government’s housing provision efforts to low-income-earners, said the NHE needed to reintroduce the concept of “incremental housing that was successfully implemented before” to demonstrate that it was serious with addressing the housing issue.

He proposed that the government should also introduce a benchmark ratio to ensure that adequate resources are allocated to housing provision.

“If we need 10% of the national budget to be allocated to housing, so be it, and let’s stick to that ratio until the housing challenge is duly addressed,” Kavekotora urged.

Shivute told The Namibian on Monday that the NHE came up with the housing project last year as a selective board decision and not pushed by him. He added that he had not been elected to be part of the Swapo think tank at the time.

He further argued that this project has nothing to do with elections as they want to assist those with erven who do not have assistance financially to build a home. “Let people come forth with land and see what happens,” Shivute said.

In defence of the project, Libongani also dismissed the electioneering claims, saying the project was among many of the NHE’s measures to ensure that “every eligible Namibian has access to quality and affordable housing”.

He said the NHE was committed to its mandate of providing and financing housing, whether during an election year or not.

The parastatal’s last major project was former president Hifikepunye Pohamba’s 2013 mass housing programme’s answer to Namibia’s housing crisis, with a promise to build 148 000 houses by 2030.

The Namibian reported last year that around 360 houses completed under the programme in Windhoek had not been handed over to beneficiaries, two years after most of them were completed.

The urban development ministry was allocated about N$2 billion, which is an increase of 6,5% on the previous year’s allocation.

Urban development minister Peya Mushelenga said in the National Assembly last month that his ministry wants to spend N$561 million on the servicing of urban land this year.

He added that about N$100 million would be spent on rural infrastructure and sanitation development.

The ministry, according to budget documents, would receive N$5,8 billion for its development budget over the medium-term expenditure framework.

Source: By Okeri Ngutjinazo and Sakeus Iikela

Calgary Gets More Affordable Housing Despite Short Fall in Major City

CALGARY—Affordable housing advocates in Calgary hope a new downtown housing complex will offer a place to land for people falling through the cracks in the city’s housing network.

Construction is set to start next month on a 74-unit building on the west end of downtown. By fall 2020, charitable developer HomeSpace hopes that the empty lot near the CTrain’s red line track on 5 Ave. S.W. will offer affordable rental spaces for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Calgary Centre Liberal MP Kent Hehr announced Tuesday that Ottawa would contribute $9.77 million toward the project as part of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy.

Calgary Homeless Foundation president and CEO Diana Krecsy said she hopes to see the development become a place where people can get access to services they need where they live. Her organization wants to co-ordinate different agencies to provide health services or financial supports for the people who eventually move in.

Krecsy sees the housing as a place for people who don’t necessarily need 24/7 supportive care, but who also don’t have quite enough stability to live somewhere without close access to help.

“They might be cycling through unstable housing over and over again. The support model and the housing just isn’t getting the right mix for them — that group that circulates through, that’s the group we’re targeting here,” she said.

“We saw the gap and now we’re going to build to it.”

By 

Want to Own Your Own Home in Your 20s? Here’s How

Buying a home early in one’s career, has several advantages. We offer a list of dos and don’ts for young home seekers, to realise their dream of owning their own home

Owning a home is a dream for many and being able to buy a home early in one’s career, can give you lots of joy. Experts point out that very few youngsters take the plunge into this big purchase, as the entire process is often challenging and complex. Although it may seem like a challenging task, if the process is managed smartly, the benefits are worth it.

“A house is one of the most expensive investments, as compared to other purchases. Hence, buying such an appreciating asset early, helps in correctly setting one’s financial goals. Earlier the investment, higher the opportunity to reinvest and multiply your returns,” says Samson Arthur, branch director – Hyderabad, Knight Frank (India) Pvt Ltd.

 

Benefits of buying a home in the 20s

For a millennial, buying a home is an investment in the financial future, says Rajat Johar, head of residential services, India, CBRE, who explains some of the advantages of buying a home in the 20s:

  • Future investment: It allows youngsters to invest in their future, as it provides them with an asset that can be sold, when they are ready to move on.
  • Youngsters tend to learn better spending habits: It changes the young buyer’s decision-making process, as they learn how to save and spend money in the most effective and efficient manner.
  • Tax benefits: As home buyers get tax credits, youngsters can use it for lowering their tax liability.

“Also, owning a house is a huge responsibility, which can make youngsters more responsible” he says.

 

Planning aspects that a buyer in his/her 20s should keep in mind

Planning the budget for a home, is more important than evaluating the maximum loan eligibility. For a first home purchase, set aside a budget that is affordable and in-line with your career growth and pay scale. Ensure that you have savings of up to 20-25 per cent of the value of the house, prior to purchase, while the rest could be from a home loan. Maintain sufficient balance in your savings, for emergencies and other investments like marriage, family, vacations, further education, vehicle, etc.

While most banks provide loans of up to 85 per cent of the property value, youngsters need to first check the EMI that they would be comfortable paying each month.

Sunil Sharma, VP – marketing and CRM, Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd, offers some suggestions for property buyers in their 20s:

  • Loan planning: Consult at least two to three reputed banking institutions, to understand the nuances of the home loan process, including documentation, interest, repayment terms, tenure implications, EMIs, etc.
  • Project location and connectivity: Work hours tend to be longer at an early career stage and thus, connectivity to core the business districts is important.
  • Social infrastructure: Nearby retail, dining and entertainment options must be considered, given the fact that youngsters give significant importance to recreation avenues.
  • Clear titles and other documentation: A younger buyer may need extra guidance on the various legal aspects of a property, such as land titles, statutory approvals, RERA compliance, etc. A consultant or expert can help evaluate the feasibility of a project in this context.

Inculcate financial discipline, by prioritising savings and asset building and you can end up becoming a smart real estate owner. If you get it right the first time, there is a good chance you will know the pitfalls during future investments.

 

Why buying a home in the 20s is a wise decision

  • Longer loan-tenure eligibility.
  • More tax saving, due to income tax deduction benefit available against home loan interest and principal repayment.
  • Risk appetite is higher, for which the rewards can be better.
  • A youngster has more time, to balance other financial objectives.

Source: By Amit Sethi

Law Changes Seen as Tool to Boost Affordable Housing Across Oregon

SALEM — It’s getting harder to find a place to live in Oregon, and state lawmakers are making a bipartisan effort to address what some call a housing crisis.

New housing construction isn’t keeping pace with population growth in Oregon, according to state economists. The Up for Growth National Coalition estimates that from 2000 to 2015, Oregon “underproduced” its housing needs by 155,000 units. Increases in real estate and rental prices in the Portland area only recently started easing.

State Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, has been working on housing issues in the Legislature since 2013. As chair of the House Human Services and Housing Committee, she’s excited about the work legislators are doing, and she likes many of the proposals she’s seen, including more money for local planning departments, a lifeline for struggling mobile home parks, boosting density in residential neighborhoods and beyond.

She’s worried about how the state is going to pay for them. About $70 million is being sought for housing-related legislation, House Speaker Tina Kotek said. “I don’t know if we’ll find the money, but we’re going to try,” Kotek said. One of her priorities is opening more residential areas to multi-family housing.

House Bill 2001 would require all cities above 10,000 in population to permit a duplex wherever they would allow a single-family house. All cities above 25,000 — as well as virtually the entire Portland Metro area — would have to allow triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and cottage clusters in residential neighborhoods as well.

The goal, Kotek said, is “to provide more housing choice in residential areas.” Permitting what she calls “missing middle” housing types would mean more rentals that low-income Oregonians can afford, more homes for first-time homebuyers, and more apartments, condominiums and small houses for older adults looking to downsize.

HB 2001 was introduced to significant skepticism from cities and counties, conservative economists, and Republican legislators. But after multiple rounds of revisions, the bill passed out of Keny-Guyer’s committee on an 11-0 vote in favor of passage.

“I was very supportive of the overall concept, and I was very supportive of making some pretty big changes to it, and I think all of that happened,” Keny-Guyer said.

Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, is among the committee Republicans who came around on HB 2001 after initial doubts. He’s still hoping for some more changes, he said, but he is “starting to like the bill.”

“When you need affordable housing, you’ve got to do everything you can,” Zika said.

Rep. Ron Noble, R-Carlton, who was part of a work group Kotek convened to hone the proposal, described his committee vote as a “courtesy yes.” He thinks the bill is better than it was, but he’s still not sold on idea of the state requiring local governments to loosen their land-use rules.

“It’s a hammer, as opposed to a carrot,” Noble said.

The League of Oregon Cities still isn’t on board either, lobbyist Erin Doyle said, but it does think HB 2001 has improved by giving cities more control and more time to implement changes.

HB 2001 is part of a set of bills Kotek is championing. House Bill 2002 is a more technical bill that aims to preserve subsidized low-income housing. House Bill 2003 would compel cities to permit affordable housing on residential land that they own. It would also require them to create more detailed reports on their housing needs and strategies to address them.

Taken together, those three bills would spend more than $4.5 million out of the state’s general fund — largely for “technical assistance” to help local governments with planning — and authorize up to $25 million in lottery bonds for an affordable housing preservation fund.

Kotek’s trilogy of bills have grabbed most of the attention around housing. But there are other proposals under consideration.

House Bill 2228, proposed by Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, would allocate $2.5 million for housing-related technical assistance from the state to cities and counties. It’s intended to help small and rural communities, which often have just one planner on their payroll or under contract.

Another set of bills put forward by Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, would focus on manufactured homes, which she describes as “naturally occurring affordable housing.”

“Typically, it’s less expensive and more accessible to people of lower incomes,” Marsh said.

Marsh’s legislation would let people living in an old mobile home take out a state loan to buy a new one, provide state grants for old mobile homes to be hauled away and disposed, and set up another loan program intended to keep mobile home parks open and affordable for residents.

She has also put forward House Bill 2802, which would make up to $13 million available in grants to help low-income residents with major home repairs. Gomberg, Keny-Guyer and Noble are cosponsors.

“There’s only so much we can do that we drive ourselves as public agencies — only so much housing that we can build,” Marsh said. “We really need to look at ways that we can be effective in the private realm, in helping people to stay in their homes, upgrade their homes and not lose them.”

Programs cost money, though. Budget-writers in the Legislature are already combing through spreadsheets trying to find savings, as key Democrats in Salem concede that the state will have make “difficult” decisions to cut existing services, let alone add new ones.

“I think it’s real easy from an advocate standpoint to really passionately hone in on one program or feature,” said state Rep. Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, who co-chairs the Ways and Means Committee. “But then also — looking at what’s the holistic sense — if you were to fund that, what does that take away elsewhere in the budget?”

Keny-Guyer said she it’s frustrating to help craft policies that she believes will help Oregonians, only to watch as the Ways and Means Committee sets them aside for lack of money. It’s happened to her before, and she hopes this year will be different.

“The big message that I keep hearing this session is if you want funding, you have to come up with (revenue),” Keny-Guyer said.

Her solution: Pare back what she calls Oregon’s “largest housing subsidy,” a tax break for homeowners known as the mortgage interest deduction.

Keny-Guyer wants to kill the mortgage interest deduction for second homes, as well as limit it for the state’s top earners. Households with at least $200,000 in annual adjusted gross income would only be able to claim a portion of the deduction; those making an adjusted quarter-million or more wouldn’t be able to claim it at all.

Estimates suggest Keny-Guyer’s proposal, House Bill 3349, would raise about $160 million during the next biennium. Keny-Guyer wants that revenue to be spent on affordable housing and homelessness.

“It’s hard for me to imagine worse places for this money to go than the wealthiest Oregonians,” Keny-Guyer said. “I’m going to fight like the dickens to have it go to housing and the most vulnerable populations.”

Republicans, even those on Keny-Guyer’s committee and sympathetic to her cause, are skeptical.

Zika pointed out that if HB 3349 passes, the Legislature could later decide to redirect those mortgage interest deduction savings — or it could slash the deduction further, so it wouldn’t just affect the 4% of Oregon taxpayers with more than $200,000 in adjusted gross income. Noble said if the state does slap limits on who can claim the mortgage interest deduction, he wants them to be indexed to inflation.

Conservatives have zeroed in on legislation like HB 3349 as an example of Democrats, who hold House and Senate supermajorities this year, trying to tax their way out of a sticky situation with the state budget. Battle lines are already being drawn over a $2 billion tax plan to fund K-12 and early childhood education; other proposals, like a payroll tax to pay for family and medical leave insurance and a sweeping plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, have also earned the scorn of many business owners, especially outside the Portland area.

Kotek said this week that in the context of those political fights, she doesn’t think the Legislature will “need” to limit the mortgage interest deduction. Raising taxes would require Democrats to flex their supermajorities, since 18 senators and 36 representatives must approve for a tax increase to pass. She’s hoping to find money for affordable housing elsewhere in the budget.

If the Legislature were to cap the deduction, though, Kotek thinks Keny-Guyer has the right intent.

“I think we would have to dedicate it to things that are helping us with our housing crisis,” Kotek said. “Otherwise, I think it would be a hard thing to defend, because I think people understand the nexus between that particular tax break and finding some money to pay for housing.”

Legislators already have passed rent control legislation that Gov. Kate Brown signed into law — it did not require supermajority approval — and last week, the governor signed off on another housing-related bill. House Bill 3336 allows Redmond to expand its urban growth boundary to build up to 485 homes. Half of those homes would be for low-income residents.

“It’s part of a pilot project that we did,” Zika said. “Not only will it help Redmond, I think once this has been implemented and we see that cities can grow affordable housing units, then maybe we can spread it out to all the rest of the cities.”

Legislators could approve other experimental efforts to provide more housing in other areas.

Noble’s House Bill 2997 is tailored for McMinnville, allowing the city to test a broader form of “inclusionary zoning” than Oregon allows in other cities. If it becomes law, McMinnville could pass an ordinance requiring that within a new development of at least 20 apartments or houses, at least one-fifth would have to be built and maintained as affordable housing. The bill passed the House last week 51-8.

Tom Schauer, McMinnville city planner, described the proposal as a pilot project for his city. Noble said he doesn’t know if it will accomplish much, but he thinks it’s worth a shot.

“We need to look at stimulating supply to deal with our long-term housing issues, but we need to come up with something to deal with the short term,” Noble said. “We still have people on the street. We still have people that spend way too much money on housing.”

Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, is sponsoring House Bill 2456, which could bring up to 100 new homes to rural Malheur County, converting two-acre parcels of marginal farmland into home sites.

“We should be able to convert those (acres) to rural residential to see if they will develop and sell and we can have some growth,” Findley said.

The concept is opposed by 1,000 Friends of Oregon. The conservationist group supports housing bills like those Kotek has proposed, but deputy director Mary Kyle McCurdy said she doesn’t believe HB 2456 addresses the affordable housing shortage, and she’s concerned about taking farmland out of production.

Findley disagrees.

“This is not ‘we’re going to do this all over,’” Findley said. “This is ‘let’s try this.’”

Mark Miller

Labour pledges to end ‘slum’ office housing

Labour says it would scrap a government scheme that allows offices and industrial buildings to be converted into homes without planning permission.

The party said changes to permitted development rules in England had led to the creation of “slum housing and rabbit hutch flats”.

It also said developers had been able to avoid building affordable homes.

The Conservatives said the plans would “cut house building and put a stop to people achieving home ownership”.

In 2013, the government changed planning rules to allow developers to turn offices, warehouses and industrial buildings into residential blocks without getting permission from the local council, in a bid to boost house building.

Barnet House
                                       House in North London is being converted to 254 flats

The rules have since been further relaxed, leading to 42,000 new dwellings being created from former offices in the last few years.

However, permitted development schemes are exempt from official space standards and also from any requirement to provide affordable homes.

Labour said the policy had seen the loss of more than 10,000 affordable homes, and meant that flats “just a few feet wide” were now counted in official statistics as new homes.

It said its policy was still to build 250,000 new homes a year in England with 100,000 being “genuinely affordable”.

“This Conservative housing free-for-all gives developers a free hand to build what they want but ignore what local communities need,” said John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary.

“Labour will give local people control over the housing that gets built in their area and ensure developers build the low-cost, high-quality homes that the country needs.”

Terminus House
Image captionPolice figures show crime recorded at Terminus House, and the car park which sits beneath the housing, rose 45% in the first 10 months of it opening

In one permitted development scheme at Newbury House in Ilford, an office block has been turned into 60 flats measuring as little as 13 sq metres each.

According to national space standards, the minimum floor area for a new one-bedroom one-person home is 37 sq metres.

Critics say the schemes can be damaging to residents’ mental wellbeing, as well as being miles from amenities and conducive to crime.

At Terminus House – a converted office block in Harlow – crime jumped 45% in the first 10 months after people moved in and by 20% within that part of the town centre.

Tackling the housing crisis?

But some developers warn that without permitted development many office to residential schemes would no longer be viable.

The government says the rules are helping tackle the housing crisis and allowing people to get on the housing ladder.

Of the 13,526 homes delivered under permitted development last year, more than three quarters were built outside of London

Marcus Jones, Conservative vice-chair for Local Government, said: “Labour’s plans would cut house building and put a stop to people achieving homeownership.

“We are backing permitted development rights, which are converting dormant offices into places families can call home.

“Whilst Labour put politics before our families, the Conservatives are delivering the houses this country needs so every family has a place to call home.”

Source: BBC NEWS

400 homes in Walsall plan approved

The council’s planning committee met on Thursday and unanimously approved Walsall Housing Group’s application to build 407 homes on disused land off Goscote Lodge Crescent.

Officers had granted permission for the scheme back in November last year but the application came back to the committee following minor alterations to the plans.

The homes will consist of 68 four bedroom houses, 227 three bedroom, 80 two bedroom, 16 two bedroom bungalows and 16 one bedroom bungalows.

The development is another boost to the Goscote Lane Corridor which will see 700 homes built in the area.

Walsall Housing Group had previously submitted an application for a £56 million scheme to construct 426 homes on the site in 2017.

But that plan was pulled as an original proposal to include apartments was dropped and replaced with more family homes.

When original approval was granted in November, ward councillor Ian Robertson said he was delighted because the area had become a blight for anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.

He said: “I am keen to see the work start as the site has suffered problems with anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.

“There is a real need for this development. People are struggling to get affordable housing.”

Source: By Megan Archer

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