Last week Councillor Cox, Leader of the Vale District Council replied to our letter asking about the number of one and two bedroom homes being built in the Vale on the letters page of the Herald.
The key seems to be the definition of affordability. We are looking for housing which anyone can buy – not social housing but a combination of housing which first time buyers can afford to buy (which would be classified as market housing) and shared ownership (which is classified as a type of affordable housing).
Market housing in the Vale is very expensive but we have found a little known planning condition which the Vale could use to make some new-build homes more affordable to buy.
Originally used in rural areas where incomes are low and property values are high, the open market discount scheme is being used by a growing number of local authorities.
The Section 106 agreement between the developer and the Council can stipulate that, in return for planning permission, a developer must set aside a proportion of reduced price homes on a site. The level of discount off the full market value varies but is typically between 20 and 30 per cent.
The price reduction is available to those who are struggling to get onto the property ladder in an area where they live and work. Eligibility is assessed by the local authority, which also sets its own criteria.
For example, a £240,000 house with a 25 per cent discount would be offered at £180,000. Unlike shared ownership schemes, the buyer owns 100 per cent of the property. If they later sell the property on, the same discount must be applied again and the home must be sold to someone who meets the local authority criteria.
Most would agree that this approach to creating new homes that are affordable in perpetuity is a great idea. Perhaps our Council should apply it to developments in the Vale.
Anyway, Councillor Cox went on to say that “Each application [for development] will, therefore, be determined on its individual merits.”
We have not found any new property in the Vale that first time buyers could afford so have difficulty in seeing the “merit” of the approved developments through the eyes of a first time buyer with a salary of less than £40,000 per annum.
There are only 2 new 2 bedroom homes for sale at less than £240,000 in OX12, and no new shared ownership homes, at the current time.