New Homes for Somerset? Or not many?
On Monday this week we received a press release from Homes England. Homes England is a public body, sponsored by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. In it there was a promise of 1,000 new homes being built in Somerset, Dorset and Hampshire. The company that had been selected to deliver the new homes is Wyatt Homes a company based in Poole, Dorset.
We wanted to know more, especially how one company was chosen to deliver the homes. The press release read as if the company had been selected by Homes England. Not so their spokesperson told us. “Wyatt Homes weren’t selected ahead of any other housebuilders. Wyatt applied for finance, as any other housebuilder can, under the criteria set out by the Home Building Fund.“
We were also curious as to how a share of 1,000 homes was going to be built in Somerset right now. With the phosphates issue still unresolved, most planning applications are on hold. However it turns out that these are homes being built right now, not new homes planned for the future. The Homes England spokesperson told us “We only lend on sites where full planning permission has been obtained and all planning conditions met.“
The press release also trumpeted the fact that up to 30% of the new homes would be affordable. Inevitably we wanted to know if this was genuinely affordable, or Affordable Housing. The latter was originally defined as 20% off market rents to rent, or 20% off market rates to buy. Last year that definition was made more vague by the Department for Communities, when the % were removed. We also pointed out that 30% Affordable Housing was the minimum most District Councils in Somerset would permit to grant planning permission. In response the Homes England spokesperson confirmed “This is on average across all the company’s sites and accelerates the supply of new housing in areas with high affordability challenges.”
We were thinking about coming back to Homes England for clarification on that, until we came to the final answer. This was to the question, how many of the 1,000 homes would be built in Somerset. The answer was just 19! All are on the Brimsmore Estate in Yeovil.
So good as any new homes may be, the big announcement turns out to be not so big after all. At least if you live in Somerset.
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