Affordable housing - what is Harrogate Council's approach?
Concern may exist over the type of housing being built in the Harrogate district and whether too many expensive three-to-four bedroom houses are being built, but Harrogate Borough Council says the district’s affordability ratio is 37% which is above the English average.
As well as setting targets for the amount of new housing by developers required to meet Government targets in its Local Plan, which is currently awaiting the approval of the Government Inspector, the Harrogate Borough Council is intervening in the market in a range of ways when it comes to affordable housing.
Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet member for planning, Coun Rebecca Burnett, said:
“Our Local Plan sets out to deliver a substantial proportion of the affordable housing our district needs in the most sustainable locations.
“We are taking a much more proactive approach to housing delivery to ensure that sites with planning permission are built as we would expect them to be with supporting infrastructure to benefit our communities.
“We published our housing delivery action plan at the end of 2018 and were one of the first local authorities in the country to do so. Work is well underway to implement it”.
In Harrogate Borough Council’s own Draft Housing Strategy 2019-24, it admits Harrogate is one of the most unaffordable places to live in England and the most unaffordable in Northern England, with average house prices around 11 times the median annual income of people who work in Harrogate and average rents equally high.
But the council says it has a good track record of ensuring developers build 40 per cent affordable housing in many shapes and sizes.
The council says it is also taking action of its own to help, rather than simply relying on private developers to build new houses.
It says it has secured funding to build capacity and expertise to drive forward housing delivery projects including:
£35,000 of funding to engage expertise to look specifically at ways to increase the delivery of small sites, which currently make up nearly 20% of our supply.
£235,000 of funding secured to help with the masterplanning of council-owned housing and employment sites once the Local Plan has been adopted.
Top Five ways in which Harrogate Borough Council is intervening over affordable housing.
1. Strategic Land and Asset Review:
The council said: “We cannot rely solely on housing development to increase housing supply.
“We are in the process of conducting a Strategic Land and Asset Review, this review will produce a comprehensive audit of all council owned land and assets and identify where they might be better used to, for example, provide housing units.”
2. Harrogate Housing Company:
In April 2019, Harrogate Borough Council launched its own wholly-owned property company called Bracewell Homes, to generate more income through rents and deliver 40 housing units by 2024.
3. Community Housing Fund:
In October 2018, Harrogate Borough Council used the Community Housing Fund (CHF) to finance the roles of empty housing officer and rural housing enabler employed by Hambleton council for 21 months.
4. New social housing projects:
In October 2019, Harrogate Borough Council outsourced two projects for new affordable housing to Efficiency North; a grouping of not-for-profit organisations specialising in developing social housing in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
One will see three two-bedroom houses built on Valley Road at Darley, while another at Fairfax Avenue in Harrogate will include a one-bedroom accessible bungalow, as well as two three-bedroom houses.
5. Purchasing empty homes:
A council report revealed last year that there were 911 empty properties across the district. In July 2019 it announced it would be calling on an £800,000 funding pot to enable the purchase of up to two empty homes at any given time, in a bid to bring abandoned dwellings back in to use.
HELPING HARROGATE HOMELESS
Coun Mike Chambers, Harrogate Borough Council's cabinet member for safer communities and housing, said: “We work very hard to assist families and single people who are homeless, or threatened with homelessness, to find suitable accommodation.
“We fund the Harrogate Homeless Project to deliver the ‘No Second Night Out’ project and services for adults facing exclusion.
We also work closely with people sleeping rough to encourage and support them to take the sometimes difficult step of coming indoors.
“There is no practical, or financial reason, for anyone to sleep rough in the district but we know people may have other problems which can make a move into accommodation difficult.”