York Council shifts only 10 shared ownership homes in 3 years

The York Council’s much hyped “shared ownership” programme has provided homes for only 10 families during the last 3 years.

Council marketing campaign

The figures are revealed in a response to a Freedom of Information request.

All the 10 homes were purchased on the open market. The scheme encourages residents to identify a property for sale before asking the Council to purchase it for them. The family then buys part of the property on a mortgage while renting the rest.  

The Council has decided to set the rent well below commercial levels, effectively providing the occupier with a taxpayer subsidy.

The only recorded discussion of the strategy, which will see a large proportion of the 600 new homes being built by the Council over the next few years allocated to shared ownership, came at a private meeting. click for details

The York Council admits that priority for shared ownership homes cannot be given to those on the housing waiting list. Nor can it restrict availability to existing York residents. It blames “Homes England” for these restrictions. These seem perverse restrictions given that the housing list is, and has been for many years, the accepted way of determining housing need and priority in the City.

The Council said that, “A key ambition (of shared ownership) is to support key workers by marketing housing for them. Key workers include teachers, health and social care workers, the police, the fire service and others working in the public sector”. It can only do so through a direct marketing campaign. It is unclear how many of the homes have gone to “key workers”

Slow going on “affordable” housing in York?

 Other social landlords have provided 30 shared ownership properties over the last 3 years. Of these, 29 have been “new build”.

By contrast, only 45 additional homes have been added to the Council housing stock since 2016.

Only 4 of these were purchased on the open market.

The open market purchase of homes, to supplement the rental stock, has been the flagship policy of the Liberal Democrats for over a decade. It only became a practical option 4 years ago when restrictions on the use of income from Council house sales were relaxed.

There are over 1700 applicants on the housing waiting list in York

Meanwhile the Council has taken on extra staff to manage its new build housing programme. They have so far failed to report how many shared ownership deals have been completed by the new team during the current financial year.

We think it is time for the Council to have a candid public debate about the demand for shared ownership and other forms of housing tenure in the City.

York Council set to become City’s largest PRIVATE landlord

Lowfields Green – “pack em in” approach to housing development?

Not content with being the largest provider of affordable (Council House) accommodation in the City, the York Council is now considering entering the private rented market.

Under plans to be discussed next week, it would set up a company that would develop homes on land currently owned by the authority. They hope to reinvest the profits from rents, and some house sales, into further developments.

In recent times, Council land has generally been developed by Housing Associations who have rented the properties at little more than the rents charged to Council tenants.

This approach is set to change with the Council now saying it will enter the private rental market.

Private rents in the City are typically three times higher than Council house rents.  Private rent levels in the city have increased by 17% during the last 5 years.

Any private rented properties managed by the Council would not be subject to “Right to Buy” legislation (and hence discounts).

Individual developments would still have to include a planning requirement for at least 20% affordable units. It is possible that the housing revenue account (mainly income from Council House rents) will be used to purchase homes to expand further  the number of affordable units available.

The sites that the Council hopes to develop through a new QUANGO are located at these sites:

  • Former Askham Bar Park and Ride
  • Former Burnholme College
  • Castle Piccadilly,
  • “City Centre car parks”,
  • Former Clifton Without School,
  • Hospital Fields Road/Ordnance Lane,
  • Former Lowfield School,
  • Former Manor School,
  • Tang Hall Library,
  • Woolnough House.

The plan to develop land in the city centre, which is currently used for car parking, may come as a shock. The Council has yet to confirm what its long term policy is on parking space numbers in the city centre, but any reduction is likely to be opposed by beleaguered traders. It is possible that the intention is to add one or two floors above existing car parks. That is an idea that has been floated in the past with mixed reactions.

The inclusion of the other sites may be premature. Particularly so in the case of Lowfields, where a recently submitted planning application has yet to been determined.

Taxpayers face an early blow if the plan is approved.

Investment/return profile

Upfront costs of £450,000 have been identified.  This will mostly be spent on staff.

Ongoing staffing costs of £225,000 a year in the development company are predicted, while forecasts suggest that development costs will not be fully offset by sales income for up to 8 years.

All in all, this is a risky and complex project for the Council to be considering. There will be unease that it is biting off more than it can chew with delays on providing homes the most likely consequence.

  1. In the last couple of years the numbers of new homes built in York has exceeded 1000 – well above draft Local Plan requirements.

Housing growth in York – who will occupy?

Most additional homes constructed in York over the next 25 years will be occupied by inward migrants.

 

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

Births, deaths and house building click to enlarge

The latest birth rate figures confirm that less than 10,000 homes are required over the next 25 years to meet the expected natural increase in the City’s population.

Labour however plans to build 22,000 (over the next 15 years) most of which will go to people not currently living in the City.

Yesterday developers announced a plan to build 1500 homes at Huntington on a green field location

The Council’s leadership have shot themselves in the foot claiming that with births exceeding deaths in the City new homes will be occupied by existing York residents.

That is clearly not the case.

Who would occupy 22,000 additional homes click to enlarge

Who would occupy 22,000 additional homes click to enlarge

Indeed average housing building rates, over the last 10 years, have more than equalled the natural growth in the City’s population.

The increase in population over the last decade has mainly been caused by higher life expectancy, although the population did get a boost as a result of the (unrepeatable) growth in Higher Education provision in the City.

The census returns indicate an average annual increase in the City’s population of 1691 during the last decade.

There is a housing problem in the City but it stems from high rent levels in the private sector. Even after taking into account housing benefit (rent rebates), renting a home in York is relatively expensive.

Potential owner occupiers can still buy 2 bedroomed homes from £120,000.

That should lead the Council to give the top priority to providing more Council and Housing Association rented homes in the City.

NB. The Council have now accepted that their quoted housing waiting list numbers have been wildly exaggerated for the last 2 years.

House completion numbers

Medical breakthrough will encourage retrospective births in York

Twitter exchange click to enlarge

Twitter exchange click to enlarge

Cllr Tracey Laing has told residents that she can’t afford to buy a home in York.

With several 2 bedroomed properties available at around £120,000, one wonders just how much more a £24,000 a year “Cabinet” member needs to earn to get on the housing ladder?

Or indeed how “cheap” a house has to be before it becomes “affordable”.

But the biggest eyebrow raiser will be the comment that 22,000 extra homes are required over the next 15 years because of “increased birth rates”.

No evidence was presented by the Council, before the Local Plan consultation started, to justify such a claim. They should publish a trajectory showing how many of the new homes will be occupied by “local people”.

There was a hike in birth rates 3 years ago but it is falling again. York has a lower birth rate than the rest of the region anyway.

For the 22,000 homes to be occupied by the children of existing York residents, an amazing advance in medical science would be required.

Increased procreation will need to be backdated to 1995.

The Council argued that it needed nearly 5000 homes to meet waiting list demands.

Birth rates click to enlarge

Birth rates click to enlarge

A few weeks ago it downgraded that requirement to 2200, taking 2400 people off the housing list at one fell swoop.

It also claimed that the homes would house workers in new industries which would grow in the City.

Clearly that level of economic growth isn’t going to be sustained, but – if it was – then vast majority of the houses would be occupied by inward migrants.

The representations made by York residents haven’t yet been considered by the Council. We understand that they intend to “redact” responses to obscure the identities of the authors.

Irrespective, that is, of whether the authors wish to remain anonymous.

It is already clear that some Labour hard liners are going to ignore electors, paving the way for a major showdown at the Public Inquiry next year and at the 2015 local elections.