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Bradford affordable homes crisis 'worsening'
Bradford has an affordable-homes crisis which is worsening year-by-year, the National Housing Federation has warned.
The federation, which represents housing associations, says a rising number of people are being priced out of a property market where the average house price is £142,000 but average annual earnings are £18,500.
Bradford Council has also reported that in each of the last six years only up to 900 new homes have been built annually in the district compared to a target of 2,300, of which only a small proportion will be regarded as affordable.
The growing homes shortfall is being further compounded as Bradford’s population is predicted to swell by 44,400 people by 2021.
Councillor Val Slater, the executive member for planning for the Council, warned that some developers were not building in Bradford because they regarded it as not being viable, a situation she described as “worrying”.
The Council is now working closely with Incommunities, the district’s biggest social housing group, to try to go some way to address the situation and is also starting to build homes itself.
More than 20,000 people remain stuck on a waiting list for social housing, according to the National Housing Federation.
Rob Warm, the federation’s manager for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Clearly there is a big demand for housing in the city and housing is not affordable to those living in the city.
“There is an increasing need for affordable houses and prices are spiralling out of the reach of people.
“The housing market does not really work for people living in the city.
“Private sector rents are going up, and so is the waiting list for social housing. There is a lack of supply in the country.
“We have got a crisis now and every year we don’t build enough houses for increasing demand.
“We have all got a role to play and it is not up to one party or council.”
Coun Slater said: “Unfortunately because of various factors building in Bradford is less viable – that is the message we are getting and that is worrying.
“I think the general downturn and the fact that people in Bradford have low wage rates means they are not in a position to get a mortgage or put in rather large deposits that banks want, so if developers build they can’t guarantee selling them.
“We all accept we need affordable housing and are looking at other ways affordable housing can be built, rather than use private developers.
“That’s why we are working with Incommunities and we, as a Council, have started to build ourselves.
“We are supposed to build 2,300 a year but haven’t done that for five to six years. We have probably been building 800 to 900 a year.”
Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, group leader of the Liberal Democrats on the Council, said that more one and two-bedroom houses were needed, rather than four-bedroom houses.
“There is a mad dash to make money and build houses that do not meet housing need. We have got more older people than anywhere else and we are not building houses they can live in.”
Incommunities said that it is currently building 65 homes on five sites and is awaiting final Homes and Communities Agency funding approval to build another 40 homes. It has completed 554 homes to date.
House building companies often agree to build a proportion of affordable homes on private developments during the process of gaining planning approval.
The stipulations form part of Section 106 agreements signed by developers and councils, which specify how many affordable homes should be built, and what other infrastructure requirements developers need to contribute to to enable a scheme to go ahead.
In Bradford, the target can range from 15 to 40 per cent depending on the area.
Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, however, show that only two out of nine of the biggest private housing projects in Bradford appear to meet those targets.
But Coun Slater said that if developers could demonstrate good economic reasons why they could not meet 106 commitments, planners had reversed previous commitments.
“Councils at planning committee have to make decisions between affordable housing or money for school places,” she said.
“We appreciate the developer can’t do both. We have a desperate need for school places and for housing, but we can’t have both.
“We don’t just take developers’ words for it.
“They have to provide information with the scope of land, how much the development costs to build and how much they are likely to sell the houses for.
“You have got to look at priorities, because if you don’t allow them some profit they won’t build.”
One 362-house development by Sailbridge Developments in Snowden Street has only 12 affordable houses, a little more than three per cent.
The Lister Mills 322-home development in Heaton Road, by Urban Splash, has no affordable housing, neither does the 184-unit Flaxton Court, by Miller Homes, while the 163-unit Sunbridge Road development, by Lawton Properties, has 13 affordable units, or about eight per cent of the development.
North Dean Avenue, by Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes, has 18 affordable homes from a 190-unit development, accounting for 9.5 per cent, while a site in Bingley Road, Heaton, being developed into 141 homes by Taylor Wimpey, has 21 affordable homes or 14.9 per cent of the affordable home target.
Land at Micklethwaite Drive, Queensbury, by Harron Homes, has 22 affordable units out of 128 which is 17.2 per cent.
Mr Warm stressed that Section 106s have a crucial role to play.
“Developers need to step up to the plate and deliver affordable housing in Bradford,” he said.
“We need to make sure we are not taking the focus off real issues because there is a real lack of housing in Bradford.”
And Councillor Debbie Davies, the Conservative spokesman for planning, said it seemed ridiculous that targets were not being met.
“It doesn’t seem like they are taking it seriously,” she said.
Julian Jackson, Bradford Council’s assistant director for planning, transportation and highways, said: “Many of the sites referred to in the report are located in a part of the district where a 15 per cent quota for affordable housing applies and these schemes did in fact include the appropriate level of affordable housing provision.
“In two cases, the developments brought back to life important historic buildings, including the Grade II star listed Lister Mills. This would not have been possible if the developer met the cost of providing affordable housing.
“In one case, although the development didn’t meet the quota on site, the developers were required to contribute more than £1 million for the Council to invest in other local affordable housing schemes in the district.”
WHAT THE DEVELOPERS SAY:
A spokesman for Taylor Wimpey, whose Crest Park development comprises 14.98 per cent affordable housing – just below the 15 per cent target – said that the firm had made affordable housing contributions of more than £430,000 and educational contributions of more than £140,000 to the Council.
A spokesman for Miller Homes said: “When purchased, the land for our Flaxton Court development in Bradford had existing planning permission granted by the Council with no requirement for affordable housing on the site.”
Urban Splash stressed that the Manningham South Mills site was in the city centre, where there was no planning requirement to provide affordable housing when it was developed.
Its spokesman said: “Affordable housing is not as simplistic as saying “more is better”. There are different issues in different parts of the country.
“In many areas in which we work, the issue is that there is too much monolithic social housing and local authorities are encouraging a mix of tenures and more private for sale and rent offers.”
Urban Splash sold 300 homes at Lister Mills earlier this year in part of a 654 flat deal to housing association Places For People for £77 million.
The company, which undertook a £100 million regeneration of the site, will continue to manage and market apartments at the mill for another three years.
A Barratt Developments spokesman said: “The way Bradford deals with its affordable housing policy is to agree the financial cost with the developer of what full compliance with its policy results in.
“The actual percentage for the subject site was 15 per cent, which was set by the planning inspector at appeal in 2010. This was the subject of a Unilateral Undertaking rather than a Section 106 Agreement.
“The UU required the developer to agree the affordable Housing Scheme with Bradford as part of the reserved matters application. In this instance the preference of the Council was to provide 100 per cent social rent properties. The negotiations with Jephson Housing Association resulted in 18 units being identified for social rent.”
The two developments which satisfy affordable homes target are by Keepmoat Homes in Roundwood Avenue and Woodend Crescent in Shipley.
Mark Knight, new build managing director for Keepmoat Yorkshire, said: “It is sometimes a requirement by the local authority that a percentage of the total number of homes on a new development includes a mix of homes for outright sale and affordable housing.
“By providing a mixed sustainable community, it helps local people to live in a brand new home whether they can afford a mortgage or to rent their home from a local registered provider.”
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