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Suffolk Coastal: Why are so few affordable homes being built? Figures reveal shocking failures in housing targets

16:19 29 April 2014

Too few new homes are being built in Suffolk Coastal

Too few new homes are being built in Suffolk Coastal

Archant

Planners in east Suffolk have been accused of “disgraceful” failures after new figures revealed a significant under-delivery of affordable homes being built in the region.

According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information request, just one of the affordable homes approved for development by Suffolk Coastal District Council in 2012/13 has since been built.

The statistics also show that only 26 of the 134 affordable homes approved between 2010 and 2013 were built - and of all housing approved in that time barely a fifth have been completed (20.9%).

Labour councillors have accused Suffolk Coastal District Council of “caving-in” to developers’ requests to drop affordable housing obligations and “ignoring” its commitment to the community.

Felixstowe councillor Kimberly Williams said it was an “absolute disgrace”.

“The council is failing the community and failing in its obligations to implement the affordable homes policy,” she added.

“Its priorities appear to be to encourage applications for developments that will maximise its abilities to obtain the New Homes Bonus and ignoring its commitment to provide the new starter homes and affordable properties that the communities across the district actually need.”

Defending the figures, Geoff Holdcroft, who is responsible for planning at the council, pointed to the national recession as an explanation for the decline in house building.

“Thankfully, as the economic situation eases, we are expecting an upturn in building activity and the fact that many projects already have planning permission puts this district in the perfect place to see things move forward more rapidly,” he added.

Mr Holdcroft said the council was “working hard” with developers to meet targets to create 7,900 homes in the next 15 years while “protecting the valuable, unique environment and high quality of life in this area”.

SCDC’s policy is for a third of new homes to be affordable. However of the 741 houses approved between 2010 and 2013 only 134 (18%) were classed as such.

With developers of projects, such as the Bartlet Hospital in Felixstowe, successfully negotiating the removal of affordable homes agreements, councillor Michael Sharman, has called for a more rigorous defence of council policy.

“I think in many cases the developer is pulling the wool of the eyes of Suffolk Coastal’s planners,” he said.

“They’ve caved in and as a consequence we’re left with these statistics.”

Independent Yoxford councillor Barry Slater said that although the figure of one affordable home built in 2012/13 home did not give the full picture - a further 63 were built that year from earlier approvals - he agreed more needed to be done.

“I’ve always maintained, and still maintain, that the provision of affordable housing should be our top priority as a district, and I also felt it’s not been given quite the priority that it deserves,” he said.

“As a planning authority we’ve been too willing to let developers off the hook with regard to affordable homes contributions.

“There are too many people, particularly young people, who cannot get on to the housing ladder.

“It leads to communities that have no families or young people so the schools close, the pubs close and the villages die - that’s why it’s desperate that we have affordable housing.”

Flagship Housing, the region’s main social housing provider, has recently approved a new development strategy which, over the next five years, is hoped to deliver a range of new homes to meet local need.

8 comments

  • I attended the SCDC Planning Meeting when the Ferry Road, Felixstowe and Walton Housing applications were reviewed. In both cases Kimberley Williams asked the Developer for a guarantee that the 30% affordable house clause would be honoured. Despite the Developer saying he could NOT give a guarantee, our wet and weak SCDC Planning Committee Councillors agreed to both developments without any hesitation. While SCDC are scared silly by the cost of Appeals and potential loss of the New Homes Bonus, Developers and Landowners are having a field day and making a mint. Residents views and opinions count for nothing. Democracy !!!!!

    Report this comment

    felixstoweblue

    Saturday, May 3, 2014

  • AFFORDABLE HOUSING is a SMOKESCREEN. There's a BIG economic difference between so-called "AFFORDABLE HOUSING" which at 80% is still UNAFFORDABLE for many ordinary people and SOCIAL RENT. COUNCILS, HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS and SINK ESTATES will have to build houses with SOCIAL RENTS to make housing affordable to ORDINARY PEOPLE. "AFFORDABLE HOUSES" are not affordable, despite the DOUBLESPEAK. The PEOPLE want and need SOCIAL RENTS to ensure they are able to find accommodation they can ACTUALLY AFFORD.

    Report this comment

    bigger niche

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

  • They want the developers to subsidies the affordable homes but that then makes the development uneconomical. Quite often they want them to subsidies a bus service , GP surgery etc. The sums simply do not work

    Report this comment

    BobE

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

  • Last week saw some plans from Wimpey for homes in Kirton, 45 homes 15 affordbles. Just read notes from Planning meeting Ms K Williams asked developers on two felixstowe sites will 33% of homes be affordable(for social rent) yes was the answer, being conned!!

    Report this comment

    True blue

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

  • TERENCE MANNING

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

  • Expecting developers to make 33% of homes "affordable" is totally unrealistic, and would make any housing development unprofitable. When SCDC made this their policy they knew it was unworkable, but conned the public into thinking they were doing the right thing. When developers apply for planning permission they will promise the earth and gullible councillors will believe them. When planning permission is granted they will, at a later date, go back and say "We got our sums wrong, so can we reduce the number of affordables?" It is all part of the game - developers know it, planners know it, and councillors also know it. We are all being connned!

    Report this comment

    Grumpy Git

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

  • As various quotes in the article suggest, the main problem is that timid councillors are far too open to being blackmailed by developers, and will just not stand their ground. Houses in Suffolk Coastal are some of the most expensive in Suffolk, but, nonetheless, there is little problem in developers selling them at the prices they want. Letting developers back out of "affordable homes" agreements on grounds of lack of profit, developer impoverishment etc. is just allowing these people to make even more money by false claims.

    Report this comment

    T Doff

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

  • The answer to your headline question is quite simple - Money! If you were Mr Developer why would you build 2 affordable semis which you'd maybe sell at £160K each on a plot where you could build a nice detached house you could sell for £500K? Mr Developer is only trying to generate as much profit as possible - he is a business after all. It is up to the Council to enforce the policies put in place to protect the wider good by rejecting any attempt to retrosepectively remove affordable housing from previously agreed plans. Their failure to do so means fewer and fewer opportunities for young people to get a decent start in this country, and will I suspect ultimately result in talented young people looking elsewhere.

    Report this comment

    Suffolk Boy

    Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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