£100k homes allocation policy put on hold after fears speculators might move in and snap them up

Mayor James Palmer said there is an urgent need for the affordable homes scheme to work across Cambr

Mayor James Palmer said there is an urgent need for the affordable homes scheme to work across Cambridgeshire. Here he is at the Rayners Green development site in Fordham where the first £100k homes started construction in March. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Members of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) housing and communities committee have deferred approval of an allocation policy for the much advertised £100k housing policy.

The scheme will see purpose-built one-bedroom properties sold – as the name suggests – at £100,000, no matter their market value.

The idea is to provide affordable housing while offering the same potential benefits of home ownership.

Mayor James Palmer has described the scheme as “unique” and said “the need is everywhere and the need is urgent”.

Cllr Bridget Smith (LibDem, South Cambridgeshire District Council) told the committee: “I have very serious concerns about our allocation policy for persons wanting to apply for the £100k homes that we have made so much fuss about.

“For example: what would stop somebody from temporarily hiding their assets – say in an offshore account – then pleading poverty in order to pass the application process for one of our £100k homes?

“As far as I can see we have nothing to prevent this from happening. Having then acquired the home for £100k they could sell it on at a later date for a huge profit?

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“I know this is an extreme example, but it could happen and I just don’t think we’ve given enough credence to the possibility of somebody wanting to take advantage of our good will.”

She said: “Building these units, selling them at £100k and then unscrupulous persons taking advantage of us by selling them on later at a huge profit to them – that wasn’t the idea at all”. Cllr Smith said: “While Mayor Palmer basks in the glory of advertising homes for just £100k I seriously think we should withdraw the paper for more consideration so we get the policy right. “If we get it wrong there will be a dreadful backlash from the not only the public whose money we’re spending, but the government also.”

Cllr Ryan Fuller (Conservative, Huntingdonshire District Council) agreed, saying: “I have to say that I agree entirely with Cllr Smith. “There are simply too many loopholes in this allocation policy as it stands for us to take chances with allowing these dwellings to go to persons without a lot more scrutiny.

“I propose that we temporarily withdraw this agenda item until our next meeting in September, so that we can look at more carefully, let our scrutiny committee members also look it over and make absolutely certain that what we intend to get out of this policy is correctly administered.”

The statutory acceptable Nationally Described Space Standard (NDSS) deals with internal space within new dwellings and is suitable for application across all tenures.

It sets out requirements for the gross internal (floor) area of new homes at a defined level of occupancy as well as floor areas and dimensions for key parts of the home, notably bedrooms, storage and floor to ceiling height where 100% would equate to the maximum possible size for a level of comfort in occupation.

The standard has also determined a cut-off minimum of 85 per cent of the requirement as being ‘significantly too small’ for decent levels of comfort in occupation.

After the meeting Cllr Lucy Nethsingha (Leader of the LibDem Group, Cambridgeshire County Council, chair Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Scrutiny Committee and former MEP for East of England) although not attending, said: “I’ve been monitoring this online and I too have very serious concerns about what is going on here.

“I am very relieved that the housing committee has chosen to withdraw this paper and take it back for further work.

“There were a large number of major concerns raised in the meeting, and I personally am shocked that a paper with so many problems was brought forward for decision at all.

“I fear this was rushed forward for political reasons, by the Mayor, and am glad the councillors on the committee were not willing to be bounced into a decision.”

The allocation policy will be re-submitted at the next meeting of the housing and communities committee on September 14.

The first block of eight £100,00 homes pioneered by Mayor Palmer are being built at Fordham near Newmarket.

Mayor James Palmer, Leader of the Combined Authority of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Councillor Bridget Smith, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council and Councillor Ryan Fuller, Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said:

“For clarity, the committee did not withdraw support for the £100K homes allocation policy, it has simply been deferred to the next committee meeting, where it will be reviewed again by members with some amendments to further outline how it will work in practice.

“It is critical that we get the eligibility criteria spot on, to ensure that £100K homes go to the working people across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who need them, and therefore necessary that we take the time to get it right.”