A RADICAL rethink of housebuilding in York is needed to get more new homes built in the city, a developer has warned.
Speaking at a meeting of City of York Council’s local plan working group developer John Reeves, chairman of the Helmsley Group, described the council’s latest housing plan as something which “tinkered at the edges” and which did not offer incentives to the smaller developers. He said the policy in and out of town should not favour particular sites.
The new initiative to “Get York Building”, which was approved in a vote at the meeting, includes a £1 million investment to address overcrowding in council houses and changes to affordable housing requirements to get stalled developments off the ground.
It also includes accepting off-site financial contributions instead of on-site affordable housing on sites of fewer than 15 homes in rural areas, agreeing a first phase of building 50 to 70 new council homes, investing £1 million in addressing overcrowding in existing council homes, as well as looking at a mortgage advice scheme and attracting investment to provide new homes for market rent.
But Mr Reeves said more needs to be done. He said: “I can say from the bottom of my heart that this tinkering at the edges is illogical, unfair and will not deliver new homes. All it will do is continue to strangle supply with the inevitable consequence, that in an attractive area like ours, demand will outstrip supply and prices will become even more unaffordable.
“York has absolutely no hope of hitting its stated housing targets even if there were no affordable contribution whatsoever, but with the proposed policies we have the makings of a housing catastrophe in the offing as well as a decimation of the small developer and all those who work for them and their suppliers.
“Officers and councillors have to consider is this what they really want to be remembered for, or rather for making York a place where all can get a home to live in.”
The Get York Building report paints a worrying picture of the lack of available and affordable housing in York – house building in the city has fallen from 1,160 new homes in 2005 to 321 in 2012.
While the number of affordable homes built in the city was 148 in 2004/5 and 151 in 2011/12, a council study in 2011 showed York needed 790 extra affordable new homes every year as the population had increased by 9.2 per cent between 2001 and 2011.
Currently, developments on brownfield sites which have more than 15 houses must have 25 per cent affordable housing, which the report states should be dropped to 20 per cent.
Developments on greenfield sites which have more than 15 houses have to have 35 per cent of affordable house, due to be dropped to 30 per cent as a response to “market conditions”.
Speaking at the meeting, Coun Joe Watt, vice-chair of the group, said more was needed to be done to help people on to the housing ladder. He said: “High prices are not helping young people get on the housing ladder and I find that most disappointing.”
Speaking about the plan recently, City of York Council leader Coun James Alexander said it will provide “much-needed more sustainable homes, help the local economy, unblock the housebuilding market and provide a much-needed boost to employment, reducing benefits dependency while creating a knock-on impact in the wider prosperity of the city.”
The plans were being discussed further by cabinet today.