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Housing & Sustainability

•   
Evaluation of the affordable housing policy for
Sheffield (CS40)

Policy

The lack of affordable housing in Sheffield has left first time
buyers struggling to find a home more than ever before. Affordable Housing
Interim Planning Guidance was published in 2009 to support the Core Strategy.
It set a requirement for 30-40% of new homes in market housing developments to
be affordable homes. It states that in all parts of the city, developers of all new housing
developments will be required to contribute towards the provision of affordable
housing where this is practicable and financially viable. (Sheffield City
Council, 2009).

 

Sheffield Housing Company

In 2015, Sheffield Housing Company began a project to build
hundreds of affordable houses just 2 miles east of the city centre. SHC is a
partnership between Sheffield council, house builder Keepmoat and Great Places
Housing Group, which will manage the affordable rented homes. Before the steel
and coal industries went into decline and unemployment rose in the 1970s and
80s, in the 1950’s there was a public-sector housing boom and this is what SHC
is working to restore. John Clephan, project director at SHC, says: “The
private sector didn’t want to come in because the land value was low and
because of the risk – no one else was building or selling in these areas.” (Sheffield
Housing Company, 2017). This is the
major problem in Sheffield. There have been too many private developers who refuse to include
any affordable houses in their plans whatsoever as they know it will have a
significant effect on their profits. Based in Norfolk Park, Cutlers View
includes 4 different ranges of high quality, sustainable and energy efficient housing.
New residents, the majority are 25-35 year olds, say they are impressed by the
designs and spaciousness, and enjoy how close they are to the city. Of 325
completed homes, 237 have been sold so far indicating the high demand for this
new development. The semi-detached houses, all with gardens, are selling from
£99,995 for a two-bed, £152,00 for a three-bed and just over £200,000 for a
four-bed, with 88 of them for affordable rent or shared ownership. (Sheffield
Housing Company, 2017). Affordable rent
is based on 80% of market value, for example, a three-bedroom semi-detached
house with drive and large back garden is around £115 per week. There are no
letting fees, and tenants’ rights are the same as for traditional council
tenants. (Sheffield Housing Company, 2017). Being a modern development, Sheffield Housing Company focused a
lot of their efforts on sustainability. Every new build is fitted with solar
panels to make them as energy efficient as possible meaning they will cost less
to run and subsequently, reduce their carbon footprint. As well as this, the
houses include energy-saving technology, from high performance windows to the
highest standards of insulation draft-proofing. (Sheffield Housing Company, 2017). This is a perfect example of what Sheffield
needs more of; developers willing to build more affordable, sustainable homes.
More developments like this would put Sheffield on the right tracks for the
future and help it reach its targets of sustainable, affordable homes. As well
as this, caring for the environment is of upmost importance and the council
must insure that the new builds are sustainable and eco-friendly as this is the
direction that Sheffield needs to be moving in.

 

Developers

In many cases it can be very difficult for the city council to
find a developer willing to build any number of cut-price affordable homes.
Just recently, a major development at a disused paper mill in Sheffield will
not have to include cheap housing, after the firm behind it made a deal with
the council. Planning permission was granted last October to build 320 houses
of which 10% should be affordable. Ultimately, the two parties made an agreement
that the developer will take a fee of £1.75 million to build around 35 new
low-cost houses off-site. (The Star,
2017). This was not the outcome the council would have ideally wanted as
the Regional Spatial Strategy indicates that between 30% and 40% of all new
homes should be affordable which would be up to 730 homes per year. (Sheffield City Council, 2009). Clearly
there is a long way to go to reach this figure. However, although the CS40
policy states a required percentage of affordable housing in different areas of
Sheffield, there are no laws that enforce this, hence why the actual number of
low-prices houses built in this case was much lower than what is needed.
Perhaps if there was a way of imposing a stricter set of guidelines that
clearly outlined that new residential building projects had to include say a
minimum of 30% social/affordable housing, then less developers would be getting
away with building much less than what Sheffield really needs. This figure
below in an extract from the Community Infrastructure Levy and planning
obligations supplementary planning document and it displays the required
contribution of affordable housing that developers must include when building
in a specific area. (Sheffield City
Council, 2015). Understandably, with a lack of space to build on, the
city centre does not require any at all and the council are more focusing on
just outside the city. However, the areas that the city council are more
focused on include Broomhall, Endcliffe, Sharrow and Highfield as they
appreciate that these are the locations that are most in need of affordable
housing.         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stamp Duty

Recently, laws regarding stamp duty in the UK have changed,
potentially having significant impact on first time buyers. Stamp duty will now
be abolished immediately for first-time buyers buying a home of up to £300,000.
(BBC, 2017)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The figure above shows the effects of before and after the change
in law. Currently, the average price paid for a first home is at a record high
of £207,693 meaning that first-time buyers could now save up to £5000 on their
purchase (shown in the highlighted area above). (The Independent, 2017). Looking at this from a developer’s point
of view, it could potentially mean that they slightly increase the price of
their properties now they know that the year before buyers could have
potentially paid an extra £5000 on top of that. This increased income for the
developers could, in turn, help out the council as they may have more funds to
contribute towards building more affordable housing meaning that the change in
stamp duty laws could in fact lead to a higher number of affordable houses.

 

Waverley

In 2009, a vision to build affordable and sustainable homes for
nearly 9000 people in Waverley, Rotherham was agreed by Harworth Estates and
the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. (Harworth, 2017). As well as
houses, the Waverley site (which is still not yet finished) will include
schools, pubs, shops, medical centres and play grounds to create a community
feel. Building all of these services within the Waverley site itself, actually
creates a very sustainable outcome. It means that not only can people walk to
the shops or to school without having to drive anywhere, but it also offers
local jobs for the residents, again cutting down even more CO2 emissions. It is
estimated to add £300m in Gross Value Added to the local economy once fully
developed. Upon visiting the site, it’s clear to see the attraction with 2, 3
and 4 bedroom houses ranging from £129,995 up to £294,995, the developers are
not only targeting first-time buyers. (Barratt Homes, 2017). Barratt Homes, the
developer, even off a ‘help-to-buy’ option where buyers can choose to pay a
small monthly figure over a longer period of time to help them financially. (Barratt
Homes, 2017). This subsequently attracts more, especially first-time, buyers to
Waverley. This is clear evidence that the 2009 affordable housing policy is
working and having a significant effect on many people’s lives. Without the
Waverley development, there would be nearly 9000 people having to look
elsewhere for homes and employment and possibly having to spend more money.
Although the Waverley project provided over 3800 houses, there is still a way
to go for Sheffield as many first-time buyers will not be looking to live in
this area. (Harworth, 2017). The council are much more focused on the South and
South-West of the city as this is where the need for more affordable housing
is. (Sheffield City Council, 2015).

 

Sustainability

Insuring that the projects completed because of CS40 are
sustainable is crucial for the future of Sheffield. The City Strategy has an
ambition for Sheffield to be an attractive and sustainable low-carbon city. The
Sheffield Development Framework plays a vital role in this, encouraging different
uses of land, modes of transport, design of development and protecting the
natural environment to help create sustainable communities, and minimise
harmful impacts on the climate and wildlife. (Sheffield City Council, 2009). Other sustainability targets for
the city include making fuller use of urban land, limiting pollution and
promoting the sustainable management of waste. It’s clear to see that the new,
more modern developers are doing their best to be as sustainable as possible as
it is attractive to buyers. By promoting how much they are doing for the
environment they are standing out and therefore more likely to succeed over competitors.
More developers building highly sustainable projects is exactly what the city council
want. Perhaps offering some sort of reward to developers will to build
affordable, sustainable homes could work as an incentive and increase numbers.
For example, the council could offer financial support to help build these
houses.

 

Alternative Policies

In 1992, Rent a Room relief was Introduced which provides income
tax relief for those letting out furnished accommodation to individuals who
make their homes available for rent. The government intended this to increase
the quantity and variety of low-cost rented housing as well as giving more
choice to tenants. The policy allows individuals to earn up to £7,500 of
tax-free income from letting out furnished accommodation; clearly an attractive
incentive which is having a positive effect on the number of people unable to
afford renting a house. (GOV.UK, 2017).

 

In November 2017, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid set out details
of a new Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel that will help the government’s
commitment to halve the number of rough sleepers by 2022 and abolish it
altogether by 2027. These are the main points he is targeting:

                  •                Spending over £1 billion until
2020 to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping

•                Implementing the Homelessness
Reduction Act which will make sure more people get the help they need to
prevent them from becoming homelessness in the first place

                  •                Investing £9 billion by March
2021 to build new affordable homes

                  •                A £20 million scheme to support
homeless people and those of risk of                                                             homelessness secure homes in
the private rented sector

(GOV.UK, 2017).

Introducing policies like these is very important
and Sheffield should learn from this, perhaps by implementing similar ideas
themselves to help those who are struggling to find anywhere to life and
impacting on the quality of their life.

 

Conclusion

Since the construction of affordable homes in England fell to its
lowest level in 24 years, there are certainly signs that the CS40 strategy is
having a positive effect on working to get this number back up to where it should
be. Ministers of the local government said that the slump was not unexpected
because it was the start of a new house building strategy and that they were
investing £8 billion into affordable homes to amend this over the next 5 years.
(CIOB, 2016). There are many examples where it is clear to see that the CS40
strategy is having a positive effect on Sheffield. No longer are major
developments being built where the proportion of affordable housing is next to
none and first-time buyers are not struggling as much as they were to find
places to live. With the help of developers such as SHC, Harworth Estates and
Barratt Homes, along with the change in stamp duty laws, more young people are
affording to buy houses whether it be with or without a help-to-buy scheme or
similar. Looking into the future, the demand for more affordable housing is
only likely to increase. Since the rise in the number of postgraduates back in
2010, research shows that these levels have remained fairly level, meaning that
the number of students looking for new homes is still very high. (HEFCE, 2016).
Therefore, the need for more developers to commit to the CS40 policy, and to
meet this high demand, has never been more important. It’s very important that
the city council remain strict when it comes to the proportion of affordable
houses being built and offering a reward to developers could go a long way in
further increasing numbers and helping the city. If successful, then it’s very
possible that over the next few years, the effect of the CS40 strategy will be
more obvious and Sheffield will be heading in the right direction.

 

 

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