It is approaching five years since St Ives Town Council in Cornwall introduced policy H2 as part of its Neighbourhood Plan to make housing more accessible to locals, restricting the sale of new-build homes by requiring buyers to prove it is their primary dwelling rather than a second home.
Looking for ways to deliver houses that benefit local people is the right thing to do. However, H2 is having the opposite effect – delivery of both open-market and affordable housing has dropped significantly since 2017.
So what is the solution?
Excessive demand in St Ives and similar desirable holiday home locations has pushed up prices, making it harder for locals to buy. But Cornwall relies on the private sector to deliver affordable housing through open-market sales. If these are restricted, it has a knock-on effect on affordable housing.
Overall, housing delivery numbers have plummeted since the introduction of H2, as highlighted in a blog by Chris Tofts, head of planning at law firm Stephens Scown, which showed that while most non-restricted locations in Cornwall saw housing delivery numbers increase, in St Ives delivery of new homes was 55% of pre-H2 policy figures.
Because the restrictions only apply to new-build properties, it has pushed second-home demand towards existing stock, which has driven up prices.
So how can we boost delivery? In the absence of a centrally funded housing scheme, there is an alternative planning policy – target restrictions on schemes where there is no provision for affordable housing.
For example, in a high-value location such as St Ives, if a site does not include an affordable contribution, onsite or off, then principal residence restrictions should apply. But if the site is on the outskirts of town with a proportion of affordable homes, then the remainder should be available for sale without restrictions.
The ‘carrot’ of building homes unrestricted by H2 in return for some affordable housing provision has got to be more attractive and viable for developers.
Taking a more supportive approach to new housing and actively pursuing it rather than blanket restrictions is the only way to resolve the housing crisis.
Duncan Powell is group planning director of Acorn Property Group