The York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was today asked to grant £1/2 million to the Yorspace communal housing group. The group claimed that their £4 million scheme would create 50 jobs in the construction sector and would be built to uniquely high levels of sustainability.
A report to the decision meeting held today says “This project is a departure from what the Local Growth Fund has supported to date”
LEPs were set up to “support growth, create new jobs and businesses”
Although Yorspace identify 50 new jobs in the construction sector and high insulation standards in the homes, these are far from unique outcomes.
The developer claims it will build “19 low carbon homes….constructed on the Lowfield Green site using biobased sustainable construction materials….sourced locally….and have low embodied carbon, create low energy healthy homes and produce zero waste“. LEP officials observe that it is unclear what this actually means
The alternative of developing the land for Council housing would have produced the same outcomes. The Council has agreed that all its new build properties will be to “Passivhaus” environmental standards.
The LEPs independent appraiser identified a few weaknesses such as unclear aspects of procurement, state aid and match funding.
Yorspace is a communal housing cooperative in which house occupiers buy a stake. Originally it was thought that the group would provide homes for the less well off but that seems to be less clear now. Their pitch now seems to be based on the use of ultra sustainable building materials
When the York Council offered to sell a plot for the 19 homes on the Lowfields site it did not impose conditions which would have required the units to be occupied by the less well off, by those on the housing waiting list or even to those currently living in York or North Yorkshire.
No groups such as “key workers” are targeted for the occupation of the units
The project has already been offered a cheap land deal at Lowfields by the York Council and hopes to attract £855,000 from Homes England. Yorspace and its partner the “Lowfield Green Housing Cooperative” currently have joint assets of around £5000. They recently ran a “crowd funding” appeal.
The LEP are clearly concerned that other house builders might regard any state subsidy as unfair. The report says, “State Aid: The most appropriate applicant – Yorspace or the Lowfield Green Housing Co-operative – needs to be identified, then the State Aid position clarified in the light of this. This also needs to address potential objections from other housebuilders when any LEP grant is publicised”.
The LEP report concludes “In recommending provisional approval it is in recognition that this is an unusual but innovative project that needs further support and assistance and may in the end not be able to be funded”.
The York Council has not debated their approach to this latest application for a taxpayer funded subsidy.
LEP papers are published on their web site but are not easy to find. Meetings attract little advanced publicity.
The meeting report can be downloaded by clicking here
Grant application to LEP