Thanet's New Local Plan - Options consultation

Issue 10 - What types of new homes do we need to provide?

Introduction

Why do we need to address this issue?

As well as providing for the right number of new homes, we need to ensure they will be of the required type, size and cost.

National planning policy expects our Local Plan to meet need for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, taking account of household and population projections, need for all types of housing and housing demand, deliver a wide choice of high quality homes, widen opportunities for home ownership and create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities. This includes: -

  • Planning for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community (for example families with children, older people, people with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own homes).
  • Identifying the size, type, tenure and range of housing that is required in particular locations, reflecting local demand.
  • Taking specific account of local need for affordable housing in rural areas.

Our Corporate Plan seeks to achieve the right type of new homes to create safe sustainable communities, and attract more employees and residents including working age adults, young families and elderly people.

The main objective of our Housing Strategy is to deliver quality and affordable homes required to achieve sustainable communities and support regeneration and economic development, make better use of the existing stock across all tenures, and enable vulnerable people to live independently.

What evidence we have on this issue

An assessment of housing need in Thanet and our neighbouring districts was published in 2009. This Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) considers the mix of housing and the range of tenures the local population is likely to need. It was carried out before government announced that housing numbers to be provided for would be decided by the councils themselves. In light of this and because we now need to plan up to 2031 we are reviewing the validity and robustness of the SHMA's conclusions. A Housing Topic Paper which considers the issues of housing mix, and a separate paper relating to Houses in Multiple Occupation and Student Accommodation have been prepared.

Key Facts and Information

The following headline messages from the SHMA are important when considering what type of homes we need to provide:

  1. Critical challenges are the impact of an ageing population, the loss of younger age groups and the effect on working age population. This argues for an improved housing "offer" for incoming households as well as meeting the needs of an ageing population.
  2. Factors including more single older people, in-migration by smaller households, fewer married couples and other social changes indicate that single person households will increase in number. However, there is a greater supply of smaller units than family homes.
  3. Regeneration and economic strategies need to be supported by provision of appropriate and attractive housing products for higher earners to ensure young local families can stay.
  4. To support growth, housing development will need to prioritise a mix of homes to support a young and expanded workforce including affordable and market homes at different price levels
  5. Future policy should prioritise a rebalancing of the stock to incentivise provision of family homes and control the expansion of flatting of larger homes, but also recognise there is solid demand for smaller homes from important sectors of the community such as young single people who need to be retained in the area, students and increasing numbers of older single people.
  6. Housing policy has a strong role to play in rural communities for example by supporting balanced communities and village services.

Considering what types of new homes we need to provide

National planning policy expects us to plan for sustainable, inclusive, mixed, balanced and healthy communities including thriving rural communities. Clearly Thanet's communities are affected by the type, size and affordability of the housing stock in their particular neighbourhoods. For example some areas have higher or lower proportions of flatted/detached homes and of market/affordable housing than other areas. A key question is how far we should be looking to change the existing balance.

The findings and conclusions of the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) together with updated information we have obtained are factors to take into account and to help you consider what type of homes we need to provide. These are summarised below.

Additional information we have already gathered to inform the review of the SHMA is also included below. Responses to this paper will also help inform the review.

The challenges

A critical challenge for East Kent is the forecast increase of older (especially very elderly) people and loss of younger age groups. It is essential to improve the housing offer to incoming younger households and meeting the needs of an ageing population.

While single person households are expected to grow in number there is already a relatively greater supply of smaller homes than of family homes.

Reflecting economic aspirations we should aim to : -

  • prioritise a mix of affordable & market homes.
  • re-balance the stock to incentivise provision of family homes.
  • support retention of young families to supply the future labour force.

Updated information indicates these findings remain essentially correct. Updated household type forecasts continue to show an increase in small households (including one person, lone parent and childless couple households) and a decrease in larger households (2 or more adults and children). However, they do indicate some increase in younger age groups may be achieved in scenarios above nil migration and above economic lower growth.

Chart 1 - Forecasts of Population Change by Age Group 2011-2031

Chart1-Forecasts of population change by age group 2011-2031

Local housing markets

The SHMA identifies individual housing market areas defined by household demand, preferences and linkages between where people live and work. As shown on map 3, Thanet's local housing market areas are all contained within and do not overlap the district boundary. The SHMA outlines the characteristics and issues facing these local areas. For instance it recommends protecting larger family homes from subdivision or redevelopment to provide smaller homes as a means of safeguarding the housing offer and values; with a particular need for such protection in Westbrook, Westgate, Margate and Ramsgate.

Map 3 - Local Housing Market Areas Identified in the SHMA

Map3-Local housing market areas identified in the SHMA

Affordable homes

Affordable housing means housing provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. The SHMA considers need both for social rented housing (including affordable rent) and intermediate housing (which is homes for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent but below market levels e.g. shared ownership). The Housing Topic paper sets out a definition of types of affordable housing contained in national planning policy.

For Thanet, the SHMA estimates that to accommodate backlog and newly arising need over a 5 year period we would require over 1500 additional affordable homes to be delivered in the district each year. (For other districts in the sub region the picture is similar). Current policy in the Thanet Local Plan 2006 expects planning applications for residential development of 15 or more homes to include an element of 30% affordable homes. National planning policy says that where need for affordable homes is identified; our policies should expect this to be met on site unless alternative provision is justified.

Alongside the very substantial need for more affordable homes, we need to ensure the level of affordable housing we require does not make residential schemes unviable. The SHMA recommends:

  • Subject to economic viability assessment residential sites of 15 or more dwellings should include an affordable element of 30% and in the local housing market areas of Broadstairs and the Thanet Villages, 35%.
  • An affordable housing split of 70% social rented and 30% intermediate.

The SHMA recognises issues facing rural communities and the importance of enabling younger and lower paid residents or incomers to live in these communities. It suggests that subject to local economic viability studies the 15 dwelling threshold be reduced in the rural market areas as far as viable and in Thanet's case an affordable element of 35% which may also help to support a vibrant village community.

To help address most acute need the SHMA recommends we prioritise development of larger affordable homes. It indicates that to ensure a minimum of 50% of need is met for each dwelling type the make up of additional affordable homes should reflect the split shown in table 7 below. In addition it recommends we consider policy initiatives to "disincentivise" creation of additional smaller units where there is no identified need, and encourage larger units, for example preventing conversion of family homes.

Table 7 - Guideline split for prioritising need for affordable homes in Thanet

 

Thanet

1 bed flats

27%

2 bed flats

13%

2 bed houses

15%

3 bed houses

34%

4+ bed houses

11%

 

We are currently reviewing our evidence on need for affordable housing. It is anticipated that this will confirm that the level of need remains substantial. An economic viability study of development in Thanet (2012) indicates that a headline district-wide target of 30% affordable housing in new residential schemes would be appropriate without impacting on scheme viability, and schemes of less than 15 dwellings could also provide or contribute towards affordable housing.

Market homes

Although difficult to forecast, the SHMA sets out guideline proportions for the size and type of market homes and at which sections of the market by value they should be targeted. This is illustrated in tables 8 and 9. An aspirational survey which informed this split indicates that priority for market housing should be given to developing larger roomed houses with 3 or 4 bedrooms that are semi-detached in style. It also notes that because existing properties are preferred to new build, consideration should be given to "de-converting" flatted properties where opportunities arise.

Table 8 - Guideline proportions for market homes in Thanet

Singles

1 bed flat

20%

Couples no children/singles/needing support

2 bed flat

10%

Couples with children

2 bed house

25%

Couples with children

3 bed house

35%

Couples with children

4+ bed house

10%

 

Table 9 - Guideline proportions of market homes by value for East Kent area

 

Entry level

Mid market

Upper market

1 bed flats

40%

35%

25%

2 bed flats

35%

45%

20%

2 bed houses

35%

45%

20%

3 bed houses

20%

45%

35%

4+ bed houses

10%

50%

40%

 

Type of homes

The SHMA notes that, compared with Dover, Canterbury, Shepway and Swale Districts, Thanet (at 22% in 2001) had the highest proportion of flats, and that policy should rebalance the stock to incentivise provision of family homes and control the number of conversions of larger homes to flats.

In some cases proposals to provide further flats in Thanet have raised concerns about town cramming in neighbourhoods, loss of garden space, erosion of the stock of family houses, concentrations of poor quality small flats resulting in densely populated, polarised and transient communities and importation of benefit dependent households. Thanet has a substantial number of large properties physically capable of accommodating flats.

Where accommodation is to a good standard, flats can help meet the needs of mixed communities. Such accommodation can also serve both to reduce the call on greenfield housing land and possibly provide beneficial uses of historic and other buildings too large for modern use as family houses. We will also be preparing a Quality Development supplementary planning document, which will set out guidance to enable proposals for new homes to be based on decent, attractive and sustainable standards.

Over the period 2004 to 2008, flats accounted for a significant proportion of property transactions in Thanet, and in recent years the proportion of new homes that were flats has been as high as 80%. However, property transactions show a general decline in the proportion of flat sales since the 2004 - 2008peak. House sales have shown a more steady trend, with a perceptible increase in the proportion of semi-detached and detached property sales since 2008.

In 2010 we adopted a development plan document restricting further one bedroom flats and bed sits in Cliftonville West Renewal Area as there was compelling evidence that increasing the stock of such accommodation was a factor fuelling transience and multiple deprivation. Monitoring has not revealed any evidence that this restriction has increased applications to provide such accommodation elsewhere in Thanet.

 At 2011 Thanet still had a higher proportion of flats than the districts shown in Chart 2(28% compared with 22% in 2001). Conversely as shown in Chart 3 Thanet also has the lowest proportion of detached houses.

Chart 2 - Dwellings by type - flats/houses

Chart 2 - Dwellings by type - flats-houses

 

Adapted from data from the Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.1.0.  Source 2011 Census Table KS401EW

Chart 3-Percentage of Detached Houses

Chart 3 - Percentage of Detached houses

 

Adapted from data from the Office for National Statistics licensed under the Open Government Licence v.1.0.  Source 2011 Census Table KS401EW

Houses in multiple occupation (HMO's)

We use this term to describe houses which are occupied by unrelated individuals sharing basic amenities. Where a good standard of accommodation is provided, well managed HMO's can provide a valuable source of affordable accommodation for people on low incomes including those starting off in the economy as young professionals. While noting the projected increase in small households the SHMA encourages continued enforcement of high standards for HMO's.

Existing HMO's are often of low quality and when poorly managed can result in neighbourhood disturbance, fear of crime, and a transient, unsettled community. In light of such problems in Cliftonville West Renewal Area the development plan document referred to earlier also restricts additional HMO's in that particular area.

We have established a local direction meaning that planning permission is required for HMO's anywhere in Thanet. Our current policy for considering HMO applications focuses on their likely effect on the character and amenity of the local area including factors such as noise, disturbance, car parking and refuse.

An option would be to carry forward the existing policy under which the impact of proposals for HMO's is judged against their individual circumstances. Alternative options could include : -

  • Identifying additional areas (beyond Cliftonville West Renewal Area) where a restrictive approach to new HMO's is to be applied.
  • Identifying a maximum percentage of HMO's that would be acceptable in general or in specific parts of Thanet.
  • Restricting HMO proposals that would result in the loss of particular types of residential accommodation (for example houses suited to modern family living requirements).

Such alternative options would need to be justified by supporting evidence.

Rural housing

The SHMA recognises the importance of enabling younger and lower paid residents or in-comers to live in rural communities, and makes recommendations to improve the prospects of negotiating affordable homes as part of new housing developments in rural settlements.

The option also exists to consider exceptionally allocating sites for affordable housing that would not normally be released for housing (for example just outside villages' built up confines). Rural parish surveys have been carried out to ascertain the level of local housing need that exists. This will help us decide what policies may be needed.

Housing requirements of specific groups

-Families

The SHMA notes a predicted decline in family households over the period to 2026. In support of economic regeneration and mixed communities it recommends measures to encourage family incomers, and support younger households and families already in the sub region, including:

  • More emphasis on provision of medium and larger homes
  • Encouraging affordable housing in rural areas.
  • Promoting "place-making" to create living environments attractive to families

-Older people.

Forecast growth in the older population is a major factor that will increase single person and childless households. There is a growing preference to independent living and remaining at home into later life implying a greater need for care services and increased demand for specialist accommodation for older people. Providing attractive and suitable housing could encourage downsizing from under occupied accommodation to help meet wider need and demand.

The SHMA recommends that on developments of 15 or more units 100% of affordable housing units be developed to "Lifetime" standards and at least 20% of market units be developed to these standards. (Lifetime standards refers to ordinary homes incorporating design features that add to the comfort and convenience of their occupants and supports their changing needs at different stages of life, for example the needs of some wheelchair users).

-Young people

The SHMA notes a predicted reduction in the number of people in the 16-24 year old age group. It also notes that newly forming households are on lower incomes, that young people have difficulty accessing owner occupied accommodation and are often ineligible for affordable housing. Thus options are often restricted to private renting or remaining in the family home. The SHMA notes that there may be a widened role for Intermediate housing, including shared ownership.

-People with long-term illness and disabilities

In 2001 a lower proportion of permanently sick/disabled households were owner occupiers and more likely to live in social rented accommodation. The SHMA notes that 58% of households with a disability would like to live in a bungalow and that in relation to mobility related problems, the recommendations above regarding Lifetime Homes would be beneficial. It also notes a continuing need for housing support for people with mental health problems. Recommendations include considering a proportion of bungalows in new developments in conjunction with Lifetime Homes standards, and acknowledging the continuing need for adaptations to existing property.

The 2011 population census indicates that the proportion of Thanet's residents with long term health problems or disability limiting day to day activity was 23.4%. The comparable figure for the South East was 15.7%. It also suggests that the number of people in communal establishments including care and nursing homes in Thanet has declined over the 10 year period to 2011.

We are working with the County Council to update our understanding of the type and level of needs of residents requiring social care, including people with physical disability and mental health problems.

-Gypsies and travellers

The SHMA refers to a separate assessment of needs for gypsies and travellers published in 2007 which suggested a requirement in Thanet for 4 pitches up to 2012 and 1 additional pitch from then to 2017.

With neighbouring district councils we are obtaining an updated assessment. Unless this demonstrates specific need requiring land allocation, the Local Plan mayjust set out criteria to judge any planning application that might come forward. Such criteria might include that such uses and location should not impact unreasonably on surrounding uses, and adequate access to facilities like schools, jobs and healthcare.

-Students

The SHMA notes that students are a group with particular housing requirements often met through private renting in the form of shared accommodation such as houses in multiple occupation (HMO's). It notes that HMO's can help meet the needs of various groups requiring affordable housing, but often have problems (associated with the condition of the accommodation and management standards).

We are working with Christ Church University to improve our understanding of future need for accommodation associated with students attending the Broadstairs campus and to identify any issues that the Local Plan may need to address to accommodate sufficient and suitable accommodation.