Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by Cllr Gary Suttle, Leader of Purbeck District Council (HPB 133)

Housing and Planning Bill

1.1 Purbeck District Council welcomes the opportunity to submit information to the Public Bill Committee’s examination of the Housing and Planning Bill 2015.

1.2 The Council is a small rural local authority subject to a large number of environmental constraints which make the provision of housing to meet local needs particularly challenging.

1.3 About one fifth of the district is internationally important for nature conservation (SAC, SPA or Ramsar). The coast is a natural World Heritage site, a large proportion of the District is designated AONB or Green Belt and the whole district is a Nature Improvement Area.

1.4 In 2013 the average house price in Purbeck was £273,586 while average earnings were £20,961 (Home Truths 2014/5 NHF). Private rented accommodation is expensive and limited in supply.

2 Part 4 Social Housing in England

Chapter 1 - Implementing the Right to Buy on a voluntary basis

2.1 The Council recognises the provisions of the Bill are based around the agreement reached between the Government and the National Housing Federation (NHF).

2.2 However, the Council is concerned about the impact these proposals will have on the district and its communities. Of particular concern is the location of potential Right to Buy replacements, their tenure and the portability of the discount.

2.3 Under the agreement there is no requirement to replace a home sold with one in the same community or local authority area. Sites in Purbeck are scarce. It is therefore unlikely replacement homes will be in the same village and there is a very real risk they will not be provided in Purbeck. Nervousness about the Right to Buy has deterred at least one landowner from proceeding with an offer of land.

2.4 The cost of provision is also an issue as is the timescale for replacement. It is more expensive for associations to provide homes in rural communities. It is therefore likely replacements will be provided in urban areas, where construction costs are cheaper and sites more readily available.

2.5 Although the Council appreciates the need to provide replacement homes as quickly as possible, the three year timescale for replacement means it is unlikely there will be any incentive for associations to provide replacements in rural areas. Rural developments take longer. Recent exception sites in the district have taken at least five years.

2.6 The broad definition of replacement homes which includes Starter Homes, shared ownership and other part buy and part rent models is also of concern. While this may assist some households to access home ownership average incomes in relation to house prices will result in a continued requirement for affordable rented housing in Purbeck.

2.6 Given the principle that replacement homes can be anywhere in the country the Council seeks re-assurance that the use of portable discounts is limited to the local authority area in which the tenant lives. Purbeck is a popular retirement location and although most households in work would wish to remain in the area, those whose purchase has been assisted by family members may use the opportunity to move to another local authority. The Council is therefore concerned that in its current form the proposal could result in a further reduction in the supply of affordable rented housing.

3 Summary

3.1 The Council supports the Government’s commitment to build more homes. However, it is concerned that the proposals with regard to the extension of the Right to Buy will reduce the stock of affordable rented housing in Purbeck. It is unlikely affordable rented housing lost to the open market will be replaced in Purbeck. The portability of discounts may result in further reductions. In addition the potential to provide replacement homes which support households into home ownership will affect the Council’s ability to assist those who continue to require affordable rented housing.

December 2015

Prepared 10th December 2015