Dartford's Housing Context
- Meeting of Strategic Housing Board, Wednesday 10 July 2019 2.00 pm (Item 6.)
- View the background to item 6.
This report is ‘to follow’.
The Head of Regeneration presented a report which provided an overview of the local housing profile for Dartford in the context of national and regional housing trends. Housing supply, tenure, cost and affordability were considered along with the differing requirements of specific groups within the population. Information in the report was largely sourced from a study being undertaken by HDH Planning and Development entitled ‘Dartford and Ebbsfleet Housing Needs Assessment’ which had not yet been completed and the information therefore should be considered to be draft. She reminded Members that although the projections were based on past trends they were still only projections. From this it was clear that Dartford had a dynamic housing market with a lot of new housing, rising purchase and rental costs but that the trends were broadly in line with what was happening in neighbouring areas. There was high demand for new housing to buy or rent but Dartford had a very high ‘household formation rate’ of 1.8% compared to the national average (1.4%), possibly because the average age of families in Dartford was younger. There was a lot of growth being generated from within the Borough and not just because of people coming into Dartford from other areas. The study would be used to support the preparation of the new Local Plan which was expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination in late 2020. The Board was invited to contribute to work on the preparation of the Plan by way of the work on housing that it intended to carry out and its’ comments and direction on policy matters would be passed on to the Local Plan Leaders Advisory Group for consideration.
It was noted that there were a number of influences at work that could be driving trends locally such as the Ebbsfleet Garden City and Grammar School effect attracting younger families and the fact that Dartford railway station was the hub for 3 main train lines with direct access to London and Kent. There were also factors blocking the release of larger properties by those looking to downsize because the high cost of smaller properties in the borough provided a disincentive.
The Head of Regeneration explained that the Council could look to influence the mix of housing types through the Local Plan and highlighted the significant gap that existed between market entry rents and market entry purchase prices. This indicated that there could be potential demand for part-ownership products and other forms of assisted home purchase. There were a range of products available including Intermediate Rent/Rent-to-Buy, Shared Ownership, Shared Equity and Starter Homes/discount home ownership and these could be explored in greater detail at future meetings. The Chairman felt that it would be important to speak to providers of these products to identify their requirements when making these available to home-buyers, the levels of deposit they required, the level of repayments and their attitude towards risk in making investment decisions and whether the Council could do anything to influence their attitude towards lending risk. It was also noted that there were some products which now counted towards a person’s rent payment history when determining their credit rating. The Head of Regeneration suggested that it would be good to explore some of these products with providers.
Whilst recognising that home ownership was an important aspiration it was also important to recognise the importance of the private rented sector and the multi-layered nature of housing demand. The report also highlighted the future requirements of diverse groups within the population and specifically older persons; people with disabilities; family households; essential local/key workers and younger people and recognised that within these categories there were many sub-sets and overlaps.
The Chairman felt that it was important for the Board to identify the different categories of customer and different offerings and products. It was important to understand areas that could be influenced in the short term but also where actions could be taken to generate appropriate change in the future. The Board had to identify what it could do to influence the local housing economy, the ways that it could influence it and what leverage the Council could use to encourage future partners to help create home ownership opportunities for existing Dartford residents.
The Head of Regeneration suggested that it might be possible to set parameters within the Local Plan to, for example, set aside some of the affordable housing element for key workers and that it could be worth engaging with developers and RSL’s to see whether this was something they might be willing to work toward. It could also be possible to require a percentage of new homes to be built to the full ‘lifetime homes’, or as it was now known ‘M4(2)’, specification making them more adaptable for those with disabilities or
The Chairman welcomed the report which he said was comprehensive and informative, providing a good starting point for the Board’s work.
That the content of the report on Dartford’s Housing Profile and Context be noted.