Examination of Witnesses(Questions 100-119)|
TUESDAY 15 OCTOBER 2002
100. For cheaper housing?
(Mr Hayler) We think it is to deal with their travel
to work and better housing.
101. Are these people leaving for similar jobs
or jobs that are more poorly paid, or are they actually moving
for promotion, and they have gone looking for promotion outside
London because it is a double gain: cheaper housing costs and
(Mr Hayler) It is, but the principal reason they give
usand this is from surveys of actual leaversis for
housing reasons rather than promotion and job. So the reason why
they leave London as a teacher and stay in the profession is predominantly
because of housing factors. The kinds of housing solutions and
interventions you then have to employ vary according to what type
of position they are in their cycle. We argue that relatively
small improvements in how long people stay in jobs, whether in
the hospital sector or the teaching sector and others, makes quite
a material difference to the quality of that service, and therefore
we are not saying that you simply provide accommodation through
an RSL at an intermediate rent and that stops people from leaving
Londonpeople leave London for quality of life reasons and
all kinds of other reasonsbut you can make a difference
if in this range of workers, modestly employed people, you improve
the social rented side, the low-cost ownership side, and so on,
at different points where they are.
102. When the Government conducts housing needs
surveys do you think it is now essential that they consider the
needs of key workers?
(Mr Hayler) Absolutely. There is a fundamental point
here about what is the housing market for a key worker: is it
borough-based or not? Clearly, it is not a borough thing. Not
only may you not be able to solve housing pressures within your
borough boundary, you clearly cannot tackle labour sectors from
a borough perspective. You are going to have to think in terms
of roles of boroughs not just in how they assess and understand
but how they collaborate along with the GLA.
103. Can we talk about affordable housing to
buy? Obviously the problems we are describing this morning affect
not just Cambridge and London but many other parts of the country,
including my own area in the West Country, and in particular in
south-west Devon, where, for example, the average house price
is £157,000 and the average salary £16,000, and those
figures do not quite compute. In relation to people's natural
desire to own their own homes, particularly local people, key
workers and so on, do you think that the current options on offer
in terms of low-cost ownership and shared equity schemes can play
any part at all in providing affordable housing for local people
and key workers, or do you have any better ideas to help solve
this particular problem?
(Mr Studdert) From a Cambridge perspective, a range
of solutions must be tried; there is no one panacea. There should
be a lot more experimentation in different options which suit
local circumstances, but I think also one must not forget that
a lot of the problem is a question of supply. In places like Cambridge
a lot of it is just to do with over-restrictive planning policies.
I think where one can actually increase the supply without harm
to the environment, one should certainly do it, and we need to
be a lot more skilled in building well so that new development
is seen as being an asset rather than a threat. By increasing
the supply in places where it is needed, we are never going to
bring prices down, but at least we will stabilise the market,
and also, in releasing more land, that gives us more opportunities
to release a proportion of that land for affordable housing, including
key worker housing, and in Cambridge we are looking at up to 50
per cent of housing schemes that would fall into that category.
I just think one has to try a range of solutions.
104. Are you trying intermediate schemes?
(Mr Studdert) We are. We are putting in a bid to the
current Challenge Fund for an intermediate scheme that also involves
some pre-fabrication as well. That obviously has to be done very
quickly, within the timescale that we have been allowed. So we
are taking all the opportunities we can. But I think there are
issues, particularly in areas like Cambridge, where local employers
can be put under some pressure to contribute towards providing
housing for their employeesand that would be private sector
as well as public sectorand there should be opportunities
to do that as well.
105. We understand that funds to the Housing
Corporation are expected to rise from £770 million in the
year 2001-02 to £1.3 billion in 2003-04, which is virtually
a doubling. Do you believe this will make any significant difference
in the Cambridge area?
(Mr Studdert) I think it could, but particularly if
we are being smart in how that money is used in the intermediate
sector, from the evidence we have put in, we have quoted a figure
of 60-70 per cent of social housing cost comes from government
subsidy, and that is obviously a very high proportion of subsidy
for that sort of housing. One can obviously get an awful lot more
low-cost home ownership in intermediate housing for a given amount
of money than one can social housing. So in areas where there
are particular pressures for this intermediate sector, I think
we need to look at intelligent ways of making that money go as
far as possible. That is certainly a great help.
106. Do you have any smart ideas to ensure that?
(Mr Studdert) I think it comes back to this problem
of trying all sorts of different arrangements, and using local
knowledge, local institutions who have ideas. I think one should
be trying as many options as there are, and it is obviously a
new field. We are very much newcomers to this game, as a lot of
other people are, and one should not be putting too many restrictions.
There are things like self-build, etc, which I think can be quite
important as wellat the margins, but these are other things
which should be tried.
107. The new £200 million Challenge Fund
which was announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review is also
to be focused on areas of population growth in the East and South
East. How do you believe it should be spent?
(Mr Studdert) As I said, we are putting in a bid.
I think there are difficulties with the way that Fund has been
set up. We were only given six weeks' notice to put in a bid.
We put in a joint bid with Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association
and one or two other local housing associations to provide housing
on what is currently a private sector site, which is going through
the planning system, to provide within the 30 per cent of affordable
housing that we will negotiate a mixture of shared ownership and
rented housing, using a pre-fabricated, timber-framed system.
The difficulty we have in putting together bids like this at such
short notice is because of our shortage of land, and because of
our dependence on the private sector to bring forward the sites.
We are not wholly in control.
108. Is that not a bit of an unfair whinge?
You have been going on for some time, as have others, about the
lack of affordable housing, and then the Government accepts you
have a problemsurely you should be getting on with it?
(Mr Studdert) Yes. What would be great would be to
have a three-year rolling programme, which is obviously happening
in other sectors, so that one can plan properly for that money
being spent, and obviously the Challenge Fund is very welcome,
but as a "quick fix", it is obviously only going to
go so far. We welcome particularly the idea that a lot of this
funding is going to areas that are under pressure for growth.
In a way, I think the over-centralised system of local government
finance has discriminated against places like Cambridge. For instance,
we raise something like £55 million a year in business rates
but we only get £5 million of it back to spend. It is about
time that places like Cambridge were recognised as being in need
of some help.
109. Obviously that could be said of anywhere
throughout the country. I could say that about my area. The point
I wanted to make is, knowing full well that initiatives by this
Government and perhaps previous governments are very likely to
be pulled from the hatdeveloped and made manifest overnightare
you saying that you have nothing at all in the top drawer to respond
to these particular initiatives?
(Mr Studdert) As I say, we have within six weeks put
together this one bid, which was pretty good, I think. We have
to move as smartly as we can in relation to the opportunities
that come forward, but if all our sites are coming forward on
the back of private sector schemes, there are always going to
be timetable problems. For instance, our largest brownfield site
at the moment, which is actually on a site owned by the Government,
which is going to deliver something like 380 units altogether,
of which 30 per cent will be affordable, has been held up for
about three years with the PFI scheme. We would have had that
site coming through three years ago if it had not been for the
wonders of that mysterious process. We do the best we can.
110. Can I ask specifically how many social
housing units, how many units of affordable housing, Cambridge
Council has provided in the last 12 months?
(Mr Studdert) I cannot say off the top of my head.
111. You can give us a note. That would be helpful.
Can I go back to Addenbrooke's? I understand from our notes that
you have about 850 flats on site. Are those suitable, or do they
badly need modernising?
(Mr Day) No; they have been modernised. We modernised
them in conjunction with a housing association, and they are suitable
for the sort of staff that use them. That is mainly either medical
staff who have to be on the site because of their service commitments,
or students, nurses and doctors in training, and increasingly
overseas nurses, who are recruited and coming into the country
and find it preferable to live in the hospital's accommodation
whilst they find their feet in the local community, or indeed
decide whether or not they will stay in the local community or
go back whence they came.
112. Within the hospital estate would there
not be scope for putting up some more dwellings, possibly pre-fabricated
(Mr Day) There is absolutely no scope within the hospital
estate at the moment. We are in the process of acquiring further
land for essential hospital building. Part of that process will
113. How much housing?
(Mr Day) The exact amount is to be determined.
114. As far as the London situation is concerned,
is there not scope for getting a few more pre-fabricated dwellings
on to school sites? I do not want playing fields to be used, but
there are a lot of schools that have odd shapes. Is it not possible
to get some more building on to those sites?
(Mr Gregory) Yes, it is, but the most efficient way
to use pre-fabricated schemes is to put them on to quite large
sites, though, as you say, there are school sites and hospital
sites and other small sites where we can use pre-fabricated buildings.
115. You did say a few moments ago to the Chairman
that you were not sure how many affordable homes had been built
(Mr Studdert) I have had a figure passed to me by
a colleague of 120 in the last 12 months.
116. How many of those came through the planning
gain route, and what success are you having in Cambridge negotiating
with private sector housing developers?
(Mr Studdert) In terms of figures of property on the
ground, it has been very modest. Over the last 10 years it is
only about 84 houses, but we have a lot of others, several hundred,
in the pipeline that are coming through; some of these slightly
larger brownfield sites that have been held up for one reason
or another. So what we have at the moment is modest, but we have
aspirations for more coming through.
117. Do you have a target figure? 25 per cent,
30 per cent?
(Mr Studdert) At the moment it is 30 per cent. There
is another opportunity that we are taking advantage of to the
west of Cambridge. There is Camborne New Settlement, which is
in South Cambridgeshire district. That is about eight miles outside
Cambridge, beyond the Green Belt. We do have nomination rights
into 50 per cent of the affordable housing that is coming through
that scheme, which will deliver about 400-500 houses in total
over the next 10 years. That is where a lot of the development
118. Is there any evidence in your negotiations
with developers that, because you are demanding the contribution
for affordable housing, as a result, perhaps the quality of landscaping
is slipping, the developers are less willing to provide children's
play areas or traffic calming schemes?
(Mr Studdert) No, there is no evidence of that. For
the schemes that are coming through at the moment we are also
trying to ensure that the affordable element is pepper-potted
within the scheme rather than being a ghetto in the back corner
of the site, so that there is a genuine mixed community and there
is no external evidence of different sorts of tenure, which we
think is quite important. Developers are responding positively
to that. Also, developers are beginning to respond quite positively
to the increase. I had a meeting with a developer yesterday about
some of the potential Green Belt release sites that were coming
through, and they seemed quite happy with the idea of talking
about 50 per cent affordable housing.
119. You mentioned in your submission that you
felt better use could be made of existing, publicly owned sites.
What do you have in mind in Cambridge?
(Mr Studdert) It is difficult. Quite a lot of our
stock is relatively low-density, semi-detached houses that were
built during the Thirties or during the Fifties at densities well
below 20 to the acre. We have taken opportunities where we can
to redevelop and to densify some of these sites, but obviously,
where you have existing sitting tenants, that becomes difficult
to do on a large scale, but we recognise that there is potentially
more that could be done to make more efficient use of some of
the low-density areas of Cambridge.