RESPONSE TO SANTON’S PLANS FOR HOUSING
DR ELIZABETH MANDEVILLE
Trustee of a local housing charity, HomeLink
Director of the local community energy services company ovesco
P1-2-3 11 (Housing Assessment)
1. Extra Housing
(i) LDC’s Older Person’s Strategy (2013) reports that overwhelmingly older people in the District prefer handyman services, gardening services and access to buses rather than Extra Care or similar. Plans for 51 Extra Care homes are therefore excessive.
(ii) Calling Extra Care housing ‘affordable’ is at odds with the general experience that occupants of these scheme have to pay considerable additional care and maintenance costs, without which the schemes are financially unsustainable. Financial support from ESCC and the Homes and Communities Agencies is unlikely to be available for North Street, and even with these subsidies the total costs to residents are unaffordable for many.
(iii) The inclusion of Affordable units in table 4.18 et seq. is therefore not justified.
2. Affordable housing
(i) More than 2104 households are seeking affordable rented housing in Lewes, but when Extra Care homes and ‘studios’ are removed, only 88 of the planned units are ‘affordable’ by the end of Phase 3 of the Santon proposal.
(ii) Detailed calculations by a local housing expert show that ‘affordable housing’ is rarely affordable for local people. (Indeed, many housing experts find the term ‘affordable housing’ risible, and not only because of the ease with which developers can reduce legally the number of such units required of them.) Rents would have to be at 40–50 % of market rents, not 80%, to assist most households in the District. (Other analysts have assessed the figure at between 20 and 40%) There is no evidence that Santon will use improved, modern modes of building to close this gap.
(ii) LDC figures show ‘huge unmet demand from young people for one bedroomed homes’, and that more than half of those who are homeless need one-bedroomed properties. Nonetheless, Table 4.29 shows an overwhelming preponderence of homes with 3 or 4 bedrooms. It would appear that the aim is rather to induce further in-migration than to meet the needs of those already living in the District.
It is regrettable that the plans show no real evidence of using modern, but by now tried and tested, methods of design and construction to provide housing that would be affordable for local people, seriously low in energy demand, and comfortable to live in. (LDC’s partnership with KSD, building 2-bedroom eco-friendly steel-framed homes in Lambert Place, Lewes, let to local people at £95/wk, shows what can be done.) There is a worrying lack in Santon’s plans of detail with regard to proposed methods of achieving low-carbon production in levelling, building and running the homes, in spite of the ambitious aspirations set out. It should be noted that Santon proposes merely to meet the revised (and obligatory) Housing Regulations soon to be introduced, or perhaps go a very little beyond them, even though the main building organisations have pointed out that many of their members are already building to very much more rigorous standards.
The commitment to ensuring that ‘affordable’ homes are distributed through the site and will not easily be distinguishable from market homes is to be commended. Nevertheless, that the majority of these homes are to be built in Phase 1, along with the Extra Care and studio accommodation, may indicate an intention that this phase, and so this part of the site, will be built to lower standards of appearance and robustness than the rest of the site.This would be socially divisive, and against the spirit of Lewes.