A developer has offered to pay £3.6 million towards the cost of providing “affordable” housing in Brighton and Hove after being rebuffed by dozens of housing associations.
Blue Goldstone, owned by Andrew Newton, 62, of Laughton, near Ringmer, made the offer after being unable to find a social landlord to manage affordable rented flats in a scheme in Hove.
The developer is expected to hand over the money to Brighton and Hove City Council instead of including 18 affordable homes for rent at the old KAP Peugeot car dealership site in Newtown Road.
Even the council declined to take on the flats because housing officials said that the mix of social housing and private homes in one block would be too complex to manage.
The saga emerged at a meeting of the council’s Planning Committee at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Wednesday 9 March).
Green councillor Sue Shanks asked why the council was not taking on the flats itself – but planning policy and housing policy appear to be at odds with each other.
Blue Goldstone is building three blocks of flats, up to 11 storeys high, containing 148 flats in total in Newtown Road as part of a £60 million scheme.
The original planning permission included a condition that about 22 per cent of them – or 32 flats – should be affordable, with 18 for rent and 14 for shared ownership.
The council’s planning policy promotes a “social mix” in new schemes but developers have found it hard to persuade housing associations to take on the management of relatively small numbers of flats.
Instead, councillors reluctantly agreed to accept a “commuted sum” – a payment of £3.6 million towards its own affordable housing schemes.
Labour councillor Daniel Yates said that there was no option other than to take the money.
He said: “I’m not happy with the state of ‘registered providers’ at the moment and the positions they are taking on many of these schemes.
“However, I’ve listened to what the developer has to say, and I don’t see that we have any other rational course to take to ensure we are delivering the best we possibly can.”
Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said that she would have preferred more homes transferred to shared ownership or shared equity to help people get on the housing ladder.
She said: “I feel there should be another registered provider there who are perhaps not so greedy about things and would take this on.
“I would be happy for it all to be shared equity instead. It could be a solution. It’s going to happen time and again and we’re not going to get what was agreed in the first place.”
Green councillor Leo Littman, who chairs the Planning Committee, said that there was little choice but to agree the proposal. If not, the developer would be likely to win any appeal.
Councillors voted five to two in favour.