Affordable housing sums don’t add up

Date: Monday 1st October 2018

Sir, The promise of more affordable housing is being used by Eden District Council (EDC) to garner public support for its masterplan and it is leading people to believe it will ensure 30 per cent of new homes built are “affordable”.

However, in the masterplan publicity brochure, EDC says only that it will “seek a minimum of 30 per cent affordable housing on all new developments …”. “Seek”, not “ensure”.

Also, in the separate technical document there is a rider: “… There is provision for this (30 per cent affordable housing) to be reduced … where it can be demonstrated that application of the policy will render any housing scheme unviable.”

Indeed, the new estate next to the golf course has only 22 per cent affordable housing. Apparently, this is because the housebuilder “couldn’t afford” the full 30 per cent, according to an Eden planning officer when I questioned him about it.

You may wonder how a housebuilder, turning profits of millions of pounds, could claim to be unable to afford to build affordable housing. Well, it seems that if he has additional costs, such as if the ground requires levelling prior to building, he can claim this will reduce his profits to an unacceptably low level.

A committee then decides if his claim is reasonable and if it finds in his favour, EDC can then permit a reduced amount of affordable homes to be built. Will there be additional costs which might impinge on the housebuilder’s profits in the Beacon villages? I asked EDC what steps it has taken to ensure the site chosen for the new housing will enable it to achieve the 30 per cent affordable housing it implies will be built, and was told that LUC had performed a viability study.

However, the technical document clearly states: “For the purposes of the viability assessment no affordable housing delivery is assumed.”

Furthermore, when I expressed my scepticism about the provision for affordable housing, the planning officer was kind enough to explain where he envisages most of the affordable housing will come from.

Apparently, EDC predicts that the wealthy will favour the new villages over the older town when looking to buy property. This will cause property prices in the older town to plummet, thereby creating plenty of affordable housing for the less wealthy.

Yes, you read right. This scheme is deliberately designed to reduce the value of Penrith residents’ properties while at the same time protecting the profits of millionaire housebuilders.

Penrith residents should know that if and when the above scenario comes to pass, it will not be some unforeseen consequence of this scheme. It is deliberate planning policy. Yours etc,

SUSAN DAVIES (Dr)

Penrith.