'We won't see the likes of Lupset built again': Wakefield Council ‘never going to meet’ current affordable housing targets
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The authority is consistently failing to keep up with a government target to build 646 affordable properties each year.
Around 20,000 people in the Wakefield district are on the waiting list for social accommodation, a number that has remained largely unchanged over recent years.
General house building across the district is on the rise, with more than 1,600 new homes being built annually.
Despite this, housing chiefs have struggled to encourage developers to meet demand for affordable homes.
David Fowles, Wakefield Council’s housing growth manager, said there is “no silver bullet” to tackling the problem,
Mr Fowles told members of the Council’s Regeneration, Employment and Skills Overview and Scrutiny Committee: “It is a national problem.
“Basically, our strategic housing market assessment says we need 646 additional units of affordable housing each year.
“We get nowhere near that number. Absolutely nowhere near it.
“Over the last five years we have got an accumulated shortfall of 1,826.
“That is not because we are doing anything wrong.
“We are a development-focussed local authority.
“There is plenty of development going on.”
“We exceed our housing targets of 1,600 per year.
“The council does have land. We can contribute.
“We are never going to meet that gap because it is going to be bigger next year, and bigger the year after.
“We can’t escape that. Every body in the country doesn’t have enough affordable housing.”
In 2005, the authority disposed of its housing stock through a large-scale voluntary transfer to Wakefield and District Housing (WDH).
The transfer means the Council no longer has a direct role in the delivery of affordable homes across the district.
It does have an indirect role by delivering planning policy to ensure affordable housing on new development sites.
This includes a commitment to building 30 per cent of affordable housing on every development.
Mr Fowles said Wakefield Council’s 2036 Local Plan, which is in the process of being finalised, seeks to address the problem by ‘zoning’ areas of the district and identifying a percentage of affordable homes that need to be built.
The new measures mean developers would have to build in areas where that had previously not wanted to, such as at brownfield sites.
Mr Fowles added: “This is no silver bullet answer to this.”
Councillor Charlie Keith: “It should not be about marching to the sound of the ringing till and making a profit.
“We want this social housing. We need it in every area, not just certain areas, not just on brownfield sites, not just out of the way.
“Because all you will do is make areas where people won’t want to live.
“You will end up with an area where there is just social deprivation.
“We need this plan starting now, where we build in every ward in the district.
“We are a district council and we are responsible for delivering the same over the whole of the district.”
Mr Fowles gave details of housing projects which are nearing completion across the district which will include affordable homes.
One of the largest schemes is a site at City Fields, in Wakefield, which will contain 77 properties.
Mr Fowles said that was close to the maximum amount of social housing in one development.
He added: “We will never, ever, see the likes of Lupset built again. Because it is not the right way to do things."
Coun Keith also called on the Council to be tougher with developers over the standard of homes being built.
He said: “There have been houses built in my ward in the past ten years where, if you drive your car into the garage, you can’t open the door to get out.
“Third bedrooms are built that aren’t big enough to get a bed in.
“What are we doing here? At the end of the day we should be controlling this.
“We know the type of people we are dealing with.
“We do need to be more Draconian and we do need to say that, if this doesn’t stop, we do need to build another Lupset.”
Ongoing developments across the Wakefield district which contain affordable housing include:
Chantry House. 48 homes – The land the edge of Wakefield city centre was acquired around four years ago as part of a wider plan for the redevelopment of the Kirkgate entrance to Wakefield city centre. It includes the site once occupied by Chantry House.
The former council tax and highways building was demolished in 2020 and had been empty since 2006.
WDH is expected to begin building homes on the site next year.
Former Castleford Baths site. 69 homes – Development has been delayed as the site was being used as a Covid testing centre for almost two years but building work is expected to begin soon.
Former Fire station, Pontefract. 37 homes. Work expected to be completed in the next few months.
Grove Drive, South Kirkby. Eight homes. Plan includes building specialist bungalows for people with profound learning difficulties.
Farm Lane, Fitzwilliam. 60 homes. Groundwork investigations have been completed and the scheme is ready for to go out to tender for registered providers.
Redhill School site, Castleford. 40 homes. West Yorkshire Combined Authority are preparing “options reports”.
City Fields, Wakefield. 77 homes. Wakefield Council has 50 acres of land which have been identified for affordable housing. Plans are expected to be submitted in phases over the next six months.
Waterton Road school site, Wakefield. 29 homes. The WDH project has faced delays due to asbestos being found on the site.
Pemberton Road, Castleford. 82 homes. The Leeds Federated Housing Association development is close to completion.