Mayor ‘tops out’ £100k homes but it will be September before his combined authority vote to get eligibility criteria ‘spot on’
- Credit: Mark Bullimore Photography
Some 2,000 registered an interest within weeks of their announcement but who will get the first of eight £100,000 homes due for completion later this year?
The project has been the brainchild of Mayor James Palmer and on Tuesday he re-visited Fordham near Newmarket to signal stage two of the development getting under way.
In March he saw the site of the first eight, and has now performed the official ‘topping out’ to acknowledge the homes reaching their highest point of construction with the roofs complete.
The homes form part of a much larger housing scheme at the Rayners Green estate.
Mayor Palmer said: “This is a truly momentous occasion, the birth of the first £100K homes.”
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Describing it is a “model for affordable ownership housing” he pledged it would be first of many such schemes across the county.
“We want to now press on and turbocharge this unique scheme,” he said.
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“The housing market currently shuts out hardworking people who do not have access to outside finance.
“The cosy consensus needs disrupting, to give those who have done everything right a helping hand and a first step on the homeownership ladder.”
With demand massively exceeding supply, Mayor Palmer is hopeful of rolling out the scheme across the county: he is even hopeful some can be built in Cambridge itself.
Still to be resolved, however, is the allocations policy and in June the housing committee of Mayor Palmer’s Combined Authority pushed for a re-think.
The committee decided to withdraw a report setting out the policy and asked for an amended version to be brought back to them in September.
In principle people with a local connection, key workers and the armed forces will be top of the list for the discounted homes under the current proposals.
Three main criteria to qualify for a £100,000 home were suggested: an inability to afford open market ownership, a local connection, and the applicant not currently owning a home.
The proposals put to the committee split the scoring mechanism in two, with points awarded for both employment and other local connections.
However, when discussing the allocations policy, Cllr Bridge Smith and asking for it to withdrawn, she said the policy was not concise enough and there had been no consultation with local authority officers on it.
She felt the document was potentially illegal and discriminatory and that she was not prepared to delegate amendments to officers.
Cllr Smith said: “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 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?
“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.”
Cllr Ryan Fuller said: “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.”
Cllr Roger Hickford said that he had concerns in relation to the points system from a young person’s perspective. He knew of young people that had moved out of Cambridgeshire as they could not afford to rent or buy.
He explained that there was no history of them living in Cambridgeshire to take into account and more guidance was needed.
The committee resolved to withdraw the report and bring it back to the next committee meeting on September 14 with an amended policy and the guidance document which accompanies that policy. Mayor Palmer pointed out that “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. It is critical that we get the eligibility criteria spot on.”
* The £100K Homes website was launched earlier this year and members of the public can back £100K Homes by logging onto the website and signing the register of support.
The Mayoral Combined Authority is continuing to work with developers to secure more sites for £100K Homes.