Land speculators are making it harder to provide affordable homes in the area, the chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council said this afternoon (Tuesday 9 January).
Council boss Geoff Raw said that speculators had traded some of the limited amount of available land in Brighton and Hove and obtained planning permission for schemes that they then didn’t build.
Instead they sold on the land at a higher price with the planning permission.
The higher prices made it harder for the new owner to propose a viable scheme and make a profit, reducing the likelihood of enough affordable homes being built.
The council has a “40 per cent affordable housing” policy. When a developer wants to build 10 or more more homes, at least 40 per cent should be affordable – even though these are often too expensive to rent or buy for many people locally.
The law allows developers to argue that this level is not viable. Disputes over viability are usually settled using the independent District Valuer Service.
There have been criticisms from some developers that the district valuers sometimes lack sufficient local knowledge of the factors making schemes more costly in Brighton and Hove.
At a meeting of the council’s Audit and Standards Committee, members were told that viability assessments had tended to be kept confidential.
But this was expected to change with a move to an “open book” process – a policy likely to be approved on Thursday (11 January) by the council’s Tourism, Development and Culture Committee.
Developers wanting to build schemes with fewer than 40 per cent affordable housing would have to include viability assessments – for publication – with their application.
A number of councils elsewhere already expected this level of openness from developers.
Councillor Julie Cattell highlighted a recent application that was deferred by the council’s Planning Committee, which she chairs, because members were unhappy over the percentage of affordable homes in the scheme.
The developer, she said, came back to a later meeting with a better offer.
Mr Raw acknowledged the difficulty of dealing with this problem and said: “It’s a particular issue in this city because we’re a high demand area.”