Housing and Planning Bill

Written evidence submitted by Mid Sussex District Council (HPB 60)

Housing and Planning Bill

About Mid Sussex District Council

1. Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) is a relatively small rural local authority, but one with ambitious and significant development plans. Our District Plan, due to be submitted for Examination in January, proposes 800 new homes a year, together with significant expansion of business space. It includes the development of a major strategic site of 3,500 homes, together with a business and science park .

2. House prices and private sector rents in the area are high and employers cite affordability as a blockage to recruitment.

Clauses 1-7: Starter Homes

3. MSDC is keen to help the Government to meet its housing supply targets and to support home ownership. However, it appears that the Bill is promoting Starter Homes as an alternative to other housing tenures, such as shared ownership, or social or affordable rent, rather than an addition to these tenure options . If local economies are to thrive, and the needs of more vulnerable members of society are to be met, Councils need the flexibility to shape the supply of genuinely affordable homes to meet the needs of different people and income levels in their area, in line with their local plan and evidence bases .

4. In Mid Sussex a couple would need an income of approximately £6 0 ,000 to buy a two bedroom Starter Home at 20% discount from open market value. This may well be achievable for some young couples, but there are a large number of lower and middle income earners, including teachers, nurses and many employees of our local businesses, for whom this is simply unattainable. It is critical for our local economy and for the social fabric of our communities that we are able to meet their housing needs too, as envisaged by the National Planning Policy Framework.

5. The proposal that Starter Homes can be resold or let at open market value five years after the initial sale may encourage such purchases as investment rather than to meet residents’ housing requirements . In our view the restrictions on re-sales and letting at open market value should be in perpetuity , as already happens with shared ownership homes sold by local authorities and Registered Providers.

6. The Bill leaves the details around Starter Homes to be set out in regulations. To ensure that local authorities have the flexibility they need to meet the housing needs of their areas the Bill needs to include some principles to guide subsequent regulations. It is therefore suggested that , instead of the Bill requiring local planning authorities to meet the (as yet unspecified) S tarter H ome requirement as set out in subsequent regulation, authorities should instead be required to promote Starter Homes as part of their overall housing supply, which shou ld reflect evidence of local housing need.

November 2015

Prepared 19th November 2015