An innovative Cornish property developer is on the verge of what it forecasts can be a significant breakthrough in the battle to bridge the huge affordability gap in the housing market.
Redruth-based Lowena Homes outlined its new “Vision” concept in a meeting with Truro and St Austell MP Matthew Taylor, who has been asked by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to prepare the Rural Economy and Affordable Housing Review, due to be published next month.
To be funded entirely by the private sector, “Vision” involves the “cross-fertilisation” of open market housing with affordable homes on greenfield sites where residential developments would normally only be permitted for affordable units, and with landowners being persuaded to sell at significantly lower prices.
Lowena believes that the potential faster “deliverability” of such projects can outweigh the lower sale prices for landowners.
“The ever-increasing need for affordable housing is huge and the Government is finding it increasingly difficult to inject the funding necessary to make serious inroads into the problem.
“We have now developed a model which complies with evolving local authority requirements. In fact, we are ahead of the game – Restormel Borough Council have just produced a consultation document which is very similar to our proposals.
“We have a specialist in-house team in place that is taking things very much to the next level, bringing bigger schemes to the table and using our money, not the taxpayers.
“In order to make such projects viable, we are proposing a breakdown of 60 per cent open market and 40 per cent affordables in urban schemes and 50/50 in rural areas.”
He added: “John Archer, responsible for our land acquisition has been very successful in persuading landowners to accept less money for their land.
“The basic message has been – ‘You have a greenfield site available; if you are prepared to sell this at a lower price than you would normally seek, you are likely to achieve a planning approval much more quickly as the local authority is more likely to support a deliverable solution.’
“Mr Taylor had a very astute take on the value of land. The values we have put on land that we are now acquiring by option are very much in line with his thoughts on this.”
Mr Worlledge revealed that his company currently has approximately 150 acres of land across Cornwall earmarked for “Vision” projects embracing around 440 new homes. These include a site for 210 homes in St Austell and a 90-acre parcel of land on the edge of Falmouth that could become an important element in a new growth area.”
Mr Worlledge said Lowena Homes’ “Vision” concept was about making a genuine difference, building on what his company had learnt through its acclaimed brownfield developments.
The company, launched in 2002 as Affordable Homes of Cornwall Ltd, has won a reputation as a specialist provider of rapidly-erected, low-cost starter homes for young home-seekers who could not otherwise get onto the property ladder.
Its Vyvyan’s Court development in Camborne was hailed as “a model of best practice in affordable housing” in a case study on the web site of Creating Excellence, the South West centre for sustainable communities (www.creatingexcellence.org.uk).