Two developers will be allowed to sell ‘affordable’ homes for shared ownership after Brighton and Hove councillors relaxed the conditions in their planning permissions.
Both developers had struggled to find a registered social landlord – or housing association – to oversee affordable homes for rent in their schemes.
And one had already agreed to hand over £1.2 million cash to Brighton and Hove City Council to fund homes to rent elsewhere in the area.
One of the developers, Crest Nicholson, will now pay £670,000 rather than £1.2 million and will be allowed to sell 15 affordable homes for shared ownership at its Artisan flats in Davigdor Road, Hove.
The other, Preston Road Apartments, will be allowed to sell 10 affordable homes for shared ownership at the old City College building in Preston Road, Brighton. Originally five of them were to be affordable rented homes.
Housing officers raised concerns about receiving a smaller sum from Crest Nicholson as the previously agreed £1.2 million would make a ‘valuable contribution to affordable rented homes’ in the area.
However, planners advised councillors to agree to change the conditions relating to the recently completed block of 47 flats.
Originally the scheme was to include six affordable rented homes and two for shared ownership.
Labour councillor Mo Marsh told the council’s planning committee meeting on Wednesday (August 15): “It seems housing strategy and planning don’t agree.
“I don’t want a fight before dawn between our housing and planning colleagues.”
Planning officer Jonathan Puplett said that there would be no affordable housing in the block if councillors rejected the Crest Nicholson proposal.
Mr Puplett said: “We want something (affordable) on the site. If we do not, then the development is all private housing.
“We do not own any sites in this area and our objective is to give balance to the community.”
Goldsmid ward Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn was sceptical about the changes as she said the private flats were not selling.
She said: “There were quite a low number of affordable units and no housing association was interested
“I do feel very much as do many others in the ward this action is being taken because they are not selling and there is a cashflow problem.
“I am not at all sure this is being done for the best of reasons but we have to accept it.”
Different issues faced councillors as they discussed the former City College building in Preston Road, which is due to be converted into 25 flats.
The planning conditions included five flats for affordable rent and five for shared ownership.
Again due to lack of interest from the council’s preferred social landlords, the company has asked to make all its ‘affordable’ allocation for shared ownership.
Councillors were concerned that the government’s District Valuer Services (DVS) had not been contacted as the developer offered almost £360,000 towards off-site affordable housing.
And they were united in their concern about the loss of rented accommodation.
Preston Park ward councillor Leo Littman said: “Our ward has little in the way of rented accommodation and it would have been nice to have rentals in this new development.”
After referring to shared ownership as “affordable in inverted commas”, he conceded: “I do not think we can afford not to take this.”
Labour councillor Penny Gilbey said: “It is not what I would consider affordable.
“I’m going to have to support this but have concerns that it has not been to the DVS.”
Councillors voted to relax the conditions, with Councillor O’Quinn abstaining in the Davigdor Road vote and Green councillor Dick Page abstaining in the Preston Road vote.
Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.