Council to examine developers’ role in increasing Leeds affordable housing supply

Leeds Council is setting up an inquiry to look into how the private sector can contribute to securing much-needed affordable housing in the city during current times of “turbulent economic change and financial uncertainty”.

According to its draft terms of reference, the inquiry will examine whether the Council is being “robust enough” and what actions, if any, it can take to “influence market forces and encourage developers to meet social housing need in areas of most need”.

Growing shortfall

The problem (stats from the Council) is that supply of affordable housing is way out of kilter with the growing need:

* At the last count (2007) Leeds needed 1,889 new affordable houses every year

* The Council has recently been supplying 400 a year

* The significant fall in the number of private sector housing completions over the past two years has meant fewer affordable housing units becoming available

* What new housing has been built has tended to concentrate in the city centre, and most of that has been flats and apartments

* In the private rented sector one in three houses is deemed to be “non-decent”

Developers only

The inquiry is going to be carried out by a working group of the Council’s Scrutiny Board (Regeneration). Witnesses – including private developers, housing finance experts, Council officers and City Region officials – will be called to a series of five sessions before a report is issued in January 2012.

It appears that the inquiry is going to limit itself into looking at the role of private property developers.

There is no mention in the draft of a possible increase in supply of affordable homes through bringing empty homes in the private sector back into use – either through the kind of work carried out by housing projects like Canopy or through the Council’s own Empty Property Strategy. Nor is there mention of any possible contribution to the affordable housing stock that could be made by housing co-ops like LILAC.

Council approach robust enough?

Here’s what the sessions are going to be looking at:

* Affordable housing: what it is, where’s the demand, what’s the Council’s policy and what are the barriers that prevent affordable homes from being provided through market housing

* How the stock and quality of affordable homes are maintained and how and who sets the rent or price of a property

* Whether the Council’s approach is “robust enough in examining the financial viability of developments to require affordable homes to be provided”

* How the provision of affordable housing is being met across the Leeds City Region and initiatives being taken to meet demand “on a more equitable basis”

The Scrutiny Board (Regeneration) will give its formal agreement to the inquiry at a meeting on 27th September.

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