New Forest District Council is to implement a new scheme which will see the sale of ex-councils houses in rural areas of the district being rented or sold to people with a ‘local connection’ to the area.
The Local Connection Restriction Policy is to provide affordable homes for local people, as well as to promote the opportunity for people to live and work locally in the area and will affect the New Forest National Park and Cranborne AONB areas of the district.
The proposal which has been backed by New Forest District Council’s Cabinet is enabled under S157 of the Housing Act 1985, which is to ‘restrict onward disposals of council properties sold under the right to buy (RTB) in designated rural areas, national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
A report to Cabinet members set out the findings of a recent consultation exercise concerning the proposed adoption of a new housing policy for the area, in which ex-council homes could only be sold to people who have lived or worked in the ‘protected areas’ for at least three years.
People who replied to the consultation gave strong arguments in favour of the proposal due to the lack of housing for local young people in the area.
One responder said: “Housing stocks are at an all-time low. There are very limited opportunities for local young people to stay in their village when they grow up.
“Council houses are for local people, not for people from outside the area to come in and buy an ex-council house. This has pushed prices up and have become unaffordable to local people and more often than not they become second homes.”
There were also arguments against the proposals, which focused on tenants having the same rights as one another.
One comment said: “You should not be shifting this moral and potentially financial responsibility onto your loyal tenants who should be entitled to the same rights on property ownership as any other resident of the New Forest.”
In the council report, part of the conclusion read: ‘Despite a limited number of responses overall – especially from existing tenants - very strong support was expressed for the council using its powers to preserve former council homes within the National Park and Cranborne Chase AONB; and for the introduction of the proposed policy to ensure that former council housing is sold or let to people with a local connection.’
In the consultation, there was a question which asked: ‘Do you support the inclusion of a waiver that allows the sale or letting of a property to people without a local connection in exceptional circumstances?’
The answer to this was more mixed than the others, however, more respondents supported the proposal than did not.
In terms of financial implications for New Forest District Council, the report stated: ‘There may be a reduction in the capital receipt accruing to the council when the council dwelling is first sold by between 5 - 25%, depending on local market conditions at the time, on a case by case basis.’
The report also stated that it is considered the proposals ‘will have a positive impact on those with protected characteristics, as it will increase the options for affordable home ownership in the ‘protected areas’; particularly for those who have limited income due to age, gender or disability’.
However, it did recognise that the plans ‘may have an impact on those who do not readily meet the council’s proposed local connection restrictions’.
Overall though it stated: ‘The council considers its proposed local connection restrictions strike a fair balance of promoting local priorities, whilst limiting the adverse impact on such groups, particularly taking into account the discretionary ability to waive the restrictions in the exceptional circumstances.’
Commenting, New Forest District Council’s Housing Services Portfolio Leader, Councillor Jill Cleary said: “I fully support the policy and taking the results of the consultation exercise into account, recommend that it be adopted without delay.”