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Luton Borough Council

Right homes, more homes

 

We work with a wide range of partners to secure the delivery of the right mix of homes to meet Luton’s needs and will achieve at least 3,500 new homes by 2022 of which 700 will be affordable.

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Luton needs affordable, good quality homes for rent and to buy, they must be in safe and harmonious communities and meet local needs.

The LIF includes a number of strategic sites and a target to deliver the remaining 5700 homes from our local plan within timescale.

Our Local Plan 2011 to 2031 was adopted in 2017, it includes provision for 8,500 homes from the 17,800 identified as objectively assessed need for the borough.

This leaves 9,300 homes outstanding, we'll be working with neighbouring authorities in the broader Luton housing market area to support the delivery of those additional homes.

In addition, we recognise the strategic location of Luton within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc area and continue to co-operate with other local authorities in that growth area to support transformative housing growth projects.

Delivery rates in Luton have been above target in the last two years, in part as a result of office to residential conversions.

Evidence from the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment SHLAA1 and Housing Flows Reconciliation data has outlined the delivery of housing from 2011-18 (for more information please see attached PDF).

Over the past three years, 487 affordable homes have been developed; primarily by housing associations, although we’ve also begun to develop new council homes.

Much of the housing growth in recent years has been for smaller homes, this has exacerbated an undersupply of larger and family homes, and homes across the price spectrum. Ensuring the delivery of the right mix of homes, both in terms of property type and affordability, is a key ambition of this housing strategy.

The range of affordable housing delivered under this strategy will primarily include affordable rent and shared ownership homes. However, we will use our analysis from the housing ladder to influence the type of affordable homes which are prioritised.

Partnership working

After an assessment in 2017 by the Housing Finance Institute, we achieved Housing Business Ready Accreditation in recognition of our strategic focus on growth.

We work with a wide range of partners to enable and promote housing delivery and the provision of affordable homes. We have active liaison arrangements with:

  • housing associations and the third sector
  • providers of temporary accommodation
  • landowners and developers of sites in the town

We'll be strengthening our relationships with organisations that can deliver additional homes for Luton, and exploring formal partnerships for housebuilding using new borrowing capacity.

One Public Estate

We are an active partner in the One Public Estate programme, working with other public land holders in the town to bring forward sites and co-location of services. We have attracted funding towards land remediation, feasibility and regeneration projects.

Homes England

Our relationship with Homes England encompasses strategic growth, grant and loan finance and market engagement. We support registered provider bids for funding in Luton to enable additional affordable homes and also have the capacity to apply for funding for our own development projects.

Self-build homes

We hold a self-build register, whereby potential self-builders can register their interest in developing their own homes. In the last 12 months the register has grown from one to seven expressions of interest.

We'll support individuals and community led organisations to develop additional housing through publicising potential sites, consultation on planning issues and brokering local relationships to support new schemes.

Housing delivery is significantly impacted by confidence in the local housing market, following the introduction of the LIF and adoption of the Local Plan, values and delivery certainty for sites in Luton have improved.

We’ve become more proactive in housing delivery with the establishment of a new housing company, Foxhall Homes, and additional council housebuilding including a major redevelopment at Marsh Farm. We will continue to maximise our ability to bring forward new homes of all tenures to support housing growth in the town.

Foxhall Homes is a development company wholly owned by Luton Council, funding is provided from the council’s prudential borrowing capacity and the company generates a return to the General Fund, whilst developing high quality homes and a mix of outright sale and affordable homes. The business case for the first six schemes on council owned land has been developed and first scheme is on site. Further schemes will be added as feasibility studies are completed.

The Housing Revenue Account (HRA) business plan also provides funding for more affordable council homes on a range of sites, supported by receipts from Right To Buy sales. Initial development is on council land with additional land purchase required from 2021.

Our council housing management service is integral to our ability to develop more homes as efficiencies in our operational costs currently generate additional income to support new housebuilding.

We’ll seek all opportunities to maximise our ability to develop more council homes including use of cross subsidy from mixed tenure developments, and additional HRA borrowing as details emerge. Our commissioning priorities for new council homes are set out in appendix 1 (in the PDF document) to ensure that council housing is meeting our full range of needs.

In addition to securing new homes, it's essential to get the best from the homes and buildings in the town to meet housing needs. This applies to our own stock as well as other housing in Luton.

We've developed an offer to council tenants who are looking to downsize into smaller accommodation. We have a focus on the provision of age-appropriate accommodation and surrounding services which will help to create more movement in the housing market and free up family sized homes.

To maximise the availability of council accommodation for those who are waiting, we strive to recover homes which are illegally sublet and minimise void periods.

We offer discretionary grants to overcrowded households who own their homes, to create loft extensions. We aim to secure good space standards within new homes and build our own homes to Nationally Described Space Standards.

Our Aids and Adaptations service also ensures that existing homes are fit for purpose for those who live in them.

We estimate that there were 427 homes in Luton in October 2018 which had been empty for at least six months. Empty homes have always been a part of Luton’s housing policy, and we aim to bring 20 homes per year back into use through liaison with owners and use of local government powers such as compulsory purchase and empty dwelling management orders. The current Empty Homes Strategy is being updated.

A strategic issue for the town is the existence of unused and underused blocks which were built for student accommodation. Some of these centrally located buildings are in need of repurposing and a partnership solution is required.

Our ambition for Right Homes, More Homes align with other council priorities around bringing forward the quality of homes we need and the housing which supports the local economy and broader wellbeing.

A growing development programme also supports our commercial ambitions through generating business revenue for BTS which constructs new council housing and by supporting Foxhall Homes business plan.

Our Key Worker Housing Strategy provides brokerage services to match suitable properties to priority public sector employees including education and social care. We're committed to supporting pathways into new homes and anticipate targeting shared ownership homes for this cohort.

We work with other partners such as the CCG to ensure that homes support wider strategic objectives for public health and independence. More detail on this strand of work is in supporting wellbeing section

  • We'll continue to press for delivery on all major sites identified in the LIF to support economic growth and regeneration in the town.
  • We'll be an active developer, delivering at least 400 homes via our housing company and council house building programme as part of a total delivery of 3,500 homes by 2022.
  • We'll secure the delivery of at least 700 affordable homes by 2022.
  • We'll strengthen our wider partnerships to support access to land, development finance and skills to maximise housebuilding in Luton and consider the potential for specific joint ventures as appropriate.
  • We'll implement a policy for shared ownership homes which helps the council to deliver additional affordable homes and meet the needs of a wider range of households including key workers.
  • We'll work with developers and partners to support more of the larger homes that the town needs.
  • We'll update our supplementary planning guidance on affordable housing to reflect our new local plan in order to secure an appropriate mix of homes on development sites.
  • We'll advocate for and seek to provide age-appropriate accommodation which helps to free up family sized homes of all tenures.
  • We'll maximise all funding opportunities and strategic growth discussions to deliver homes which meet the wider housing needs of the Luton housing market area.
  • We'll make the best use of homes through providing opportunities to downsize in council homes.
  • We'll refresh our Empty Homes strategy and continue to bring homes into use at a rate of 20 per year.
  • We'll develop our offer to self-builders to support these schemes.

Key risks in terms of the wider housing market are broadly outside of our control. These include:

  • economic conditions
  • market confidence
  • availability of finance for purchase and development of homes

However, the LIF and investment in local skills, employment pathways and infrastructure would help to mitigate some of these issues and keep Luton as a place which continues to attract external investors.

Our ability to negotiate affordable housing within development sites is closely linked to site viability so a dip in values or significant rise in construction cost (for example as a result of leaving the EU) could limit our ability to enforce local plan targets.

Other risks include the loss of skilled labour for construction projects, through:

  • a low uptake of young people entering the sector
  • more older, skilled, workers retiring
  • loss of migrant labour especially from EU countries

Our ability to meet broader housing needs for Luton residents also depends on provision in local plans of neighbouring authorities so it's essential to grow our positive working relationships.

This will also facilitate opportunities arising from wider strategic growth initiatives.


Download the Housing strategy 2019-22 (pdf/a)
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