Bristol mayor George Ferguson may be falling short of his target of building 1,000 affordable homes this year, but sector specialists CJH Land believe the growing confidence in residential development will start to put the social housing programme back on track.
Simon Parks joined Flax Bourton-based CJH Land last year and since that time has helped unlock a number of key sites across the South West, delivering around 400 new affordable homes during a busy 12 months.
Simon, who specialises in advising landowners and housebuilders on the affordable housing allocation required within new housing developments, said he understood George Ferguson’s frustration. “The residential sector is improving again and developers are far more confident they will be able to sell the houses they are building. But affordable housing can remain a sticking point as the percentage of social housing to be provided as part of any given development has varied greatly across the region.”
He went on: “Back in 2007, some local authorities in the South West could demand that up to half of the homes on any particular development should be classed as affordable. Then as the market slowed, we saw developers successfully challenge or amend those figures at the planning stage or on appeal.
“Developers on some of the larger schemes within Bristol and neighbouring authorities successfully argued that it was simply not economically viable for them to provide the social housing element previously being sought. “But now the market is picking up again, the Mayor will be hoping the pendulum swings the other way. Whilst market conditions remain difficult, confidence in a housing recovery is increasing and local authorities will once again be looking to developers to ensure that an acceptable percentage of homes on any given development will be earmarked for the social housing sector. “Achieving the right balance between immediate financial viability and long term sustainability will remain key, and if correctly achieved will bring forward more of the affordable homes that Bristol needs and will go some way to helping the 14,000 or so people on the city council’s waiting list.
Simon believes his and CJH Land’s intimate knowledge of both sides of the sector has helped him unlock a number of key sites around Bristol and the South West. He said: “Because of the market downturn, providing social housing to the quantum that local authorities had previously expected has simply not been deliverable. This has resulted in a number of key strategic or windfall sites across the country being stalled and this has – as George Ferguson has rightly pointed out - limited the number of homes completed.” However Simon feels that the green shoots of housing market recovery will help increase the delivery of new affordable homes and give local authorities some increased confidence. “The fact housebuilders are now buying land again in an improving marketplace means that those developers who may previously have had to re-negotiate the social housing element of a particular development should have less requirement to do so. “As we move further away from the downturn, the number of stalled sites around the country should start to diminish and hopefully the number of affordable homes will begin to rise.” Simon added: “My task is to liaise between land owners, local councils, developers and housing providers to assist in this process and boost the number of new homes being built - whilst ensuring that affordable housing needs are met.”
In addition to the 400 affordable homes already delivered, Simon estimates that CJH Land is already working on unlocking a further 1,500 more new affordable homes in the advanced planning stage over the next few years. CJH Land director Matthew Hiles believes Simon’s appointment has helped CJH Land maintain its cutting edge over competitors. He said: “Affordable housing will remain a key issue for the foreseeable future as housebuilders concentrate on providing traditional houses in good locations.” “Simon has extended our expertise into the social housing sector - whether it makes up twenty, thirty or even forty per cent of the development he is able to add significant value. Very few other agencies are able to offer this.”