Words by Harold Goodwin, Faversham Community Land Trust
One of the things that makes Faversham special is the extended families, many of whom can trace their presence in town back for centuries. Many of you reading this will know of families who have had to move away, unable to find anything that they can afford to buy or rent in the town.
There is an understandable concern in the town about the number of new houses being built around Faversham. Under the previous local plan, Faversham was required to take 15% of the total demanded of Swale by the Westminster government. That amounts to 2,224 houses allocated under Bearing Fruits in 2014. The most up to date figures we have are very out of date. As of 31st March 2019, planning permission had been granted 18 months ago for 2,621 houses that had not been built. Obviously, houses are built only when buyers are willing and able to buy or where the government is providing a subsidy to ensure that the developer can sell them at the price they want to get for them. This approach will not result in falling house prices.
The government defines an affordable home as one for sale or for rent at 80% of the market price. Many people who live and work in town or in the local area cannot afford to rent or buy at 80% of the market price. In Faversham, the planners try to get 30% affordable housing on larger schemes but developers can use viability arguments to reduce the number agreed at the outset. In any case, as we shall see, there are large numbers of Faversham people who cannot afford the prices which the Westminster government defines as affordable.
As we saw in the built heritage piece, Faversham has some very good post World War II housing, now much sought after and rising in price and now unaffordable for many of Faversham’s families. In the national government’s 1949 Housing Manual, there was a clear understanding of the housing problem. It required “… a much greater variety of types of houses, in order to meet in a balanced way the varying requirements of the population as a whole.” The government report concluded that “the most successful schemes are those in which site planning and the house design have been unified.” Many of you will recall the efforts made by the Duchy when they ran extensive consultations about their plans for their land between the football ground and Brenley Corner; the mix of housing and the determination to build affordable and tenure blind accommodation.
There is housing need in Faversham. Faversham people want to move to start a family; to leave home as they become adults; to separate because of the breakdown of a relationship; to move into a small property as they age. We know of people sofa surfing; living in sheds in their parents’ garden; couples delaying having children until they are in their forties; couples who separate and are moving back to live with their respective parents while they save to afford the deposit on a home.
Central government uses an algorithm to determine how many houses should be built in each district; it takes no account of local needs. The Faversham Community Land Trust (FCLT), with a grant from Swale, commissioned a professional report on Faversham’s Housing Needs – you may recall the survey which received a good response. The research showed that there is a very substantial need, more than we expected. The survey identified 211 people currently sofa surfing in Faversham and many Faversham people wanting to find accommodation to raise their family.
The report from housing and market analysis company Arc4 provides evidence that more housing units are needed for people who are already living in Faversham but are in housing need, their needs for health, social care and education already being met. The FCLT wants to enable Faversham to maintain the large extended families who make it a great place to live and which provide child support and social care in our community.
Any low-income household eligible for housing benefit would be unlikely to have enough benefit to secure a house with more than one bedroom. House prices at the lower end of the market are higher than elsewhere in Swale.
The number of people over 65 living in Faversham is expected to grow by 47.7% by 2043.
Faversham has a larger stock of terraced 2 and 3 bedroomed houses than elsewhere in Swale. Think of St John’s Rd, St Mary’s Rd and Park Rd, but they are more expensive than elsewhere in Swale.
What do Faversham people want?
In the survey, all Faversham residents were asked what kinds of housing they thought should be a high priority. 70% said small family homes with two or 3 three bedrooms; 52% said small homes for single people/couples; and 43% said smaller homes to enable older people to downsize. The developers are not building the kind of homes Faversham people need or want.
Faversham people were also asked about the priority which should be given to different household types. 80% said first time buyers; 61% social rent affordable to low-income households; 52% housing suited to frail, elderly or disabled people. This is not the kind of housing being built by the developers.
In July 2020, there were 552 households living in Faversham who would like to move but can’t. If we look more closely at housing need, the survey identified 187 cases where people said that they needed to move within five years; they were in housing need (not just wanting a bigger or better house). They were people who could not afford entry-level market renting or home ownership; they wanted a home in Faversham and wanted to rent from a housing association.
Arc4 concluded our town needs 376 genuinely affordable housing units for Faversham people each year for the next five years. These would be a mix of smaller terraced starter homes, of the sort so popular in St Mary’s, St John’s and Park Roads, small studios and apartments and retirement accommodation so that people can downsize within the community. In the Neighbourhood Plan we need to look at how this local housing need can be met.
THE arc4 REPORT concluded that:
• Faversham needs a significant additional supply of affordable housing to meet the requirements of its existing households and households that are likely to form over the next 5-years from current Faversham residents.
Entry-level market housing in Faversham is not affordable for many households. Average house prices in Faversham are higher than the average prices in the rest of Swale. In particular, junior key worker households would struggle to become homeowners because of local prices. Only households with more than one income or with significant savings would be able to afford entry-level prices or market rents.
Families that need to upsize also face difficulty as the cost of buying a house with an additional bedroom would require a larger mortgage which families might find difficult to fund.
There is an under supply of 1 and 2-bedroom flats and bungalows for older people and younger households that have delayed having children.
Few 4-bedroom homes come onto the market in Faversham, and Faversham people leave the town to find them. Because of the high price of four-bedroom houses, incomers snap them up.
Arc4 are a housing market analysis company that provides accurate housing market analysis and assessments that enables the private and public sector landlords, developers and investors to make the right decisions.