G15 call for local authorities to be 'granted flexibility' over First Homes | News

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The Residents' Network

G15 call for local authorities to be 'granted flexibility' over First Homes

The G15, the largest group of housing associations in London, are calling for some changes to the government's proposed planning reforms.

Responding to the Planning White Paper, the group say they "share government's aspirations around supporting people to make the dream of homeownership a reality" but that they "have some reservations" about the methods.

First Homes have been contentious as they are seen as pushing out other forms of affordable housing, such as social housing and intermediate rent.

On First Homes, G15 say: "First Homes should be delivered in a way that does not reduce the supply of low rent homes or existing affordable home ownership products.

"Rather than introducing a mandatory national requirement for First Homes, local authorities should granted flexibility to decide whether First Homes are an appropriate alternative to shared ownership in their area."

But the group go further on First Homes, saying their existence could make schemes unviable.

"Given the viability of First Homes will be lower than both rented homes and shared ownership, the replacement of either with First Homes – to any proportion – is likely to leave a development unviable. This would likely require the recalculation of viability, then the application of 25% of homes in that recalculation to First Homes and then another recalculation of viability. And so on.

"This death spiral of complexity is almost entirely opposed to the intentions set out in Planning for the Future for a simple, clear and certain planning system. Given the new and innovative nature of the product it should be avoided, with it first being trialled through the funding programme and on exception sites."

Another key part of the Planning White Paper was around developer contributions and the role of SMEs in that.

On this, they call the current threshold for affordable housing contributions a "mistake".

Adding: "Although we are well aware of the major contribution that SMEs make in delivering new homes across the country, and are absolutely in favour of direct support during this time, we could support them in more direct ways than taking away all developers’ duties to supply affordable housing."