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Luton Borough Council

Right homes, more homes


What do we hope to achieve?

A good mix of homes is available to people in Luton which meet local needs. Luton is an attractive place to deliver new homes and housing is a part of regeneration and transformation in the town. Luton Council is an active and involved partner in driving delivery and increasing access to homes. Increased delivery of affordable homes helps our target to reduce homelessness.

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Luton has very high levels of housing need and recent housing delivery has not met the most acute need for family sized homes and affordable housing. One factor in this is the homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights which we have very limited opportunity to influence. 

In our housing strategy consultation, there was a clear message that local people want to see more family homes and affordable homes in the town. In particular the needs of larger and multi-generational families were highlighted by our consultation, with 72% of respondents stating that family sized homes were their highest priority and solutions proposed including larger homes, homes with space to extend, and the importance of gardens. 

An important challenge for the council, developers and partners will be to win the confidence of residents though high quality new developments which meet needs, whilst delivering at higher density in new urban forms. 

Our Local Plan, adopted in 2017, set out a need for 17,800 homes to meet needs over the plan period 2011 to 2031. However our Local Plan only provides for the delivery of 8,500 homes with the remainder to be provided in neighbouring boroughs. The Central Bedfordshire Local Plan, adopted in 2021, includes most of this provision, with further allocations expected from the North Hertfordshire Local Plan in the next year. 

The Local Plan requires 20% affordable housing on sites over 11 homes, whilst neighbouring local plans require 30% affordable housing. However there is currently no established mechanism to make homes in neighbouring areas available to households on the Luton Housing Register. Viability considerations, relating to site remediation, infrastructure and other costs, present a significant challenge to delivery of affordable homes in the area. 

Affordable housing is defined in planning policy and covers a wide range of tenures and price points. We know from local data that the most affordable forms of accommodation are homes at regulated Social Rents or Affordable Rents; rents of all kinds which fall within Local Housing Allowance levels; and shared ownership models of low-cost home ownership. 

Housing delivery over the past six years has been varied, with an average yearly supply of 649 homes, of which 98 (around 15%) were affordable. 

Year: 2021/22
Total: 332
Of which, affordable:

Year: 2020/21
Total: 474
Of which, affordable:

Year: 2019/20
Total: 791
Of which, affordable:

Year: 2018/19
Total: 627
Of which, affordable:

Year: 2018/19
Total: 873
Of which, affordable:

Year: 2018/19
Total: 798
Of which, affordable:

There are around 9,000 households on the council’s housing register. In 2020 to 21, partly due to the Covid crisis, we accepted a homelessness duty for 432 households. This fell to 224 in 2021 to 22. Demand for affordable housing remains extremely high and this was the most common comment from respondents to our housing strategy consultation.

Meeting the shortfall of supply is a priority for Luton Council, with a clear demand for an additional 300 affordable homes to rent each year, above current availability. 

The council has responsibilities to maintain a Self-Build and Custom Build register and seek to enable serviced self-build plots. Although the number on the register is low, it has proved difficult to bring forward appropriate self-build serviced plots which meet the government definition. Our local plan does not include planning policy which could enforce the delivery of self-build plots. 

Case study: Oakley House Affordable Housing Scheme

Oakley House Affordable Housing Scheme picture

Oakley House is a scheme of 65 affordable homes by Hightown Housing Association at a former employment site in Leagrave. The scheme is Hightown’s fifth in the town, demonstrating a growing commitment to providing affordable housing in Luton and to land-led schemes.

The project was granted planning permission in November 2021 and is expected to complete in 2024. Andrew Royall from Hightown said ‘This planning permission helps us continue our mission of building as many high quality homes as we can to respond to the shortage of affordable housing in Luton’.

Luton Council has the ambition to encourage significant investment in new homes and to deliver homes directly. We are developing through our wholly owned company, Foxhall Homes as well as the Housing Revenue Account. 

Our procurement approach follows our Wealth Building Strategy which supports the economy through local supply chains and social value. Rising values in Luton, whilst creating affordability challenges, make the town an attractive place to develop new homes. This stronger housing market better supports viability and additional planning gain. 

Housing is fundamental to our ambition for Luton to be a place where no one is stuck in poverty. We know that those living in private rented housing are most likely to be struggling to cover rent and other bills on a month by month basis. They are also most likely to be the next homeless approaches to the council, seeking housing assistance. 

As such, we aim to intervene in the rental market in Luton to drive up standards, availability and affordability: we currently own around one in ten properties in our town, we intend to increase that. 

We will test the concept of a new council company which can purchase properties in and around our town with a core focus of providing good quality, well-managed homes, offered at a range of rent levels affordable to tenants, with the ambition to hold most rents at 80% of the market rate. Officers will also look at developing a Luton Living Rent, which offers tenants more affordability for homes offered through any new company which is set up. 

This will mean those currently living in private sector homes, which in our town are too often poorly maintained, will be able to move into well managed, good quality homes at the same time as making a saving on their monthly housing costs. Keeping more money in people’s pockets in this way will be a significant step towards ensuring no one is stuck in poverty in our town.

The council will also explore opportunities to participate more fully in local supply through working with providers and developers in the area to acquire new homes, and partner with SME developers and larger developers. 

Council executive members have agreed to maximise the capacity of our Housing Revenue Account capital programme through additional appropriate borrowing, in order to invest in new homes so we can meet our ambitions to reduce poverty and homelessness. 

Although land supply is restricted in Luton there are some significant strategic sites and opportunities across the town, especially in our town centre. Our Town Centre Masterplan was adopted in 2021 and seeks to support the provision of family sized homes as part of transforming the centre as an aspirational location to live and to provide a greater mix of accommodation. 

Within Luton there are some very large sites coming forward with significant housing provision such as Power Court and several sites on Kimpton Road. A steady stream of windfall and infill sites also support local small and medium sized (SME) developers and builders. 

Construction is an important part of our local economy and supports our Inclusive Growth and Local Wealth Building approach – with the potential to create sustainable jobs and skills. Local investment in construction skills contributes to long term economic strength. 

Our performance is improving in securing affordable homes through the planning process but there is further to go. Challenges do exist in terms of access to land, and the costs of remediating brownfield land. Securing the right mix of homes especially family sized homes, remains a key challenge. 

We will take the opportunity arising from the finalisation of the Central Bedfordshire and North Hertfordshire Local Plans to secure additional homes to meet Luton’s needs. We will review our Article 4 Directions based on new legislation to protect key employment sites. 

Our increasing engagement with our community and grassroots based solutions could provide more opportunity to mobilise community wealth towards a community land trust or community self-build projects. 

Consultation with residents and stakeholders, as well as our targeted youth consultation, told us that people placed most importance on more new and affordable homes meeting local needs. 60% of respondents supported our proposed actions, with more affordable homes, zero carbon homes, and better amenity space identified as elements which needed more focus. 

A minimum of 425 net new homes a year in Luton as set out in the Luton Local Plan with a minimum of 20% affordable (85 per year).

A minimum of 900 council-led homes over the 2022 to 2027 period, including at least 350 affordable homes.

Publish a Housing Supply Plan which sets out how we will maximise our capacity to deliver more homes and work with partners to build homes to meet Luton’s housing needs, encouraging local labour and skills.

We will explore options to set up a company to acquire homes to offer at below market rents, increasing the council’s ability to shape the rental offer in Luton.

An aspiration to achieve 350 new affordable homes a year by the end of the strategy period, driven by council-led delivery, resulting in at least 700 lettings per year to affordable homes by 2027.

60% of all new homes and 80% of council-led homes to be family sized (2 bedroom 4 person minimum) between 2022 and 2027.

A minimum 10% of new affordable homes to be wheelchair accessible.

We will review our Article 4 protections around permitted development to respond to government changes, giving more oversight to homes created through building conversions and protecting employment locations.

We will create opportunities for delivery of a range of options for households seeking housing, who are unlikely to receive an offer from our housing register; including improved pathways for tenants and applicants to access intermediate and low cost home ownership, keeping under review the role of First Homes.

We will support self-build and meet statutory requirements to provide serviced plots.

Improve partnerships and communication with housing developers and affordable housing providers including potential community build projects, driving the progress of any stalled sites.

We will keep under review the needs of people in Luton especially in relation to the large cohort of younger people in the town.

We will monitor the impacts of changes to the planning system in particular the effects of First Homes, and introduce local restrictions if necessary.

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