Report of Cabinet Member for Commercial and Cabinet Member for Economic Growth
To assist the Committee in their consideration of the report, Dan Gray, the Executive Director of Property at Aspire Housing had been invited to attend the meeting. The Chairman asked Mr. Gray to give an outline of his organisation, what it did and how he viewed the current housing landscape, to aid the Committee’s understanding. Mr. Gray informed members that his organisation had been having useful and productive early discussion with the County Council around the potential for increased housing development in Staffordshire. He believed that there was potential for significant collaboration in the future between the County, District and Borough Councils and Housing Association providers. Housing Associations shared the same values and objectives as the County Council around sustainable communities and increased prosperity for residents. Housing Associations were charitable organisations typically, supported by public funding and were asset holding and the social housing which they held were assets against which they lever private sector funding. They invested for long-term returns, over thirty plus years, and would develop against the housing market cycle. There were around a dozen Housing Associations in Staffordshire, half of which were firmly rooted in the County. Aspire had formed in 2000 from the transfer of stock from Newcastle Borough Council. They currently spent around £25m per year on housing development and this year expected to have delivered 225 new affordable homes across shared ownership and rent.
There were three main ways in which Housing Associations engaged in the housing market. Firstly through the acquisition of land or the use of their own land and accessing Homes England public subsidy grant to build on those sites. Their challenge was that they were competing in a land market with private sector developers and there was also a limit to their individual capacity to the size of sites they were able to buy. Secondly through Section 106 planning obligations, although there were difficulties in this model. Private sector developers take up the large sites, who have a vested interest in minimising the amount of planning gain that local authorities took out of these sites as this impacted on their profit, so they would typically try to reduce the amount of affordable housing. There was a disconnect between private sector developers leading the process of determining the right mix and type of housing on the sites and the needs of local authorities and housing associations, and often the wider community benefit was not considered. The third model was setting up market sale companies and entering into development partnerships with private sector developers. This was in its early stages in Staffordshire.
Members were informed that there was a housing crisis, and that there was a need to provide around 300,000 homes per year, every year, in order to meet housing need across the country. Last year there were 220,000 and in previous years significantly less than that. Of that, 23% was affordable housing nationally but evidence said that this figure should be 40%. In order to fill the gap Mr. ... view the full minutes text for item 45