Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence

Memorandum by Armand Toms, County Councillor for the Looe and St Martins Ward Cornwall County Council (AH 100)

  My name is Armand Toms, a fishermen born in Looe, Cornwall where I have lived for most of my life. Back in 2003 I firstly became frustrated with the way that local people both young and old were treated with regard to local housing. The fact that local Councillors and Politicians paid lip service to the affordable/social housing situation drove me mad. I wanted to help and became involved, so when a local by-election came up I jumped at the chance, and was elected to the County Council for the Looe ward on 10 July 2003.

  Since this date I have spent many hours scouring the Internet trying to find a solution. I started with the simple idea that the only way to make housing affordable was to separate the land from the house. From this small start an idea evolved which I believe will be self financing (after the initial grant), will definitely be affordable and will have not effect on the open market value of housing. The following is a brief of my idea:

  Every District, Town and Parish Council will know the exact number and type of housing required to solve their (only their) housing needs. Take St Martins Parish (next to Looe) it is known that the local housing need shows that it would be necessary to build 23 homes to meet its requirements. You will know that every District, Town and Parish holds this information, so how do we provide homes which are affordable meet the local need and remain affordable? This is my way forward which has changed little for the last two years.

  Most, if not every District, County, local authority and Public body have land holdings which should be the first focal point. Each piece of land should be looked at and cross referenced against the local housing need or sold to provide land in the right location. I would prefer that the local District/County council should be the lead organisation for the following.

  With the land in the right location, plans should be drawn up to provide high quality mixed size housing to give a micro community. Building methods need to be in keeping with the local area, although modern techniques such as prefabricated (ie factory make) or timber frame buildings could be used. These can be clad to be in keeping with local planning laws. When the District/County councils have the sites and plans in place, the government should be approached to provide a grant of between 20-30% of the cost. This money would be a one off grant and no further money would be needed.

  Once the grant was made available building should start immediately. As each house is built it should be sold at the cost of the build plus inflation, to those on the local housing list who should have a strong local connection. Which would be something like, lived and worked in the area for at least five years. The land should never be sold to the house owner which would be leased to them for between £1,000 to £1,500 per year depending on the size and type of property. The money for the sale of the house and the lease of the land should be returned to the pot and used for the next house or scheme. To keep these properties affordable for the next generation the resale value should be pegged to the rate of inflation and only to those as they were on the local housing register and meet the same criteria (covenants may be needed to do this). Providing these houses would relieve the pressure on the requirement for social housing which should be kept for those in the greatest need. To aid this type of scheme no further sales of social housing should take place and those wishing to buy should be allowed to move to one of the above semi social houses.

  The benefits of this idea is that it take the pressure off local authorities to meet the full social housing need. It is self financing after the initial grant which gives low cost housing in all areas which will remain low and affordable for the future. This type of semi social housing would have no impact on the local housing market. Councils would not be liable for maintenance and if properties come onto the market and can not be sold as required above then councils would have to right to buy and use as social housing.

  The benefit of this idea is that it take the pressure off local authorities to meet the full social housing need. As these houses will be a asset to the owners as when the mortgage is paid off the property will be an legacy to their dependants.

  Our local district council has had a number of requests from land owners to build housing for sons and daughters or relatives. Some of these land owners would willingly give land for affordable housing if they were permitted to build. This could be a cheap source of land (free) which under current laws would not be allowed as most if not all of the land is outside the development line. Current law states that only affordable housing can be built outside the development line.

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