Radical thinking to create workable, 100 per cent affordable housing estates

One company has developed an achievable and relatively simple solution to reduce the chronic shortage of affordable housing.

Using a whole raft of new methods, Low Carbon Construction (LCC) will deliver a minimum of 10,000 affordable homes a year by 2020; the construction of its first allocation of affordable homes commences in 2019.

Its eventual plan to develop 100 per cent affordable residential estates raises cynical eyebrows amongst those who have ‘seen it all’.

If you are amongst them, prepare to think well beyond sink estates, forget the need to ‘pepper pot’ low income people inside a market-rate housing development, forget the complexities of ‘right to buy’ and open your mind to a fairer, simpler way of providing affordable homes.

  • Homes at a lower than market cost in the majority of the UK
  • Diverse communities comprising not only those on low incomes but also first-time buyers, ‘mover-uppers’ and growing families needing a larger home, renters, renters-to-buy, key workers and retired people all living side-by-side
  • Standard prices regardless of where the development is sited in the UK
  • Affordable prices held in perpetuity in high land value areas

Flexibility means it meets a locality’s specific needs

One problem local authorities and developers alike have is making sure the right mix of housing is available to its community. LCC’s plan fixes this: The company announces an allocation of houses at a particular location. A full mix of people is invited to apply. By responding to the applicants’ individual needs, LCC is able to provide exactly the housing a particular community requires. So, if most of the applicants want to rent, they can. If most want rent-to-buy, that’s what they can do.

Right to buy

LCC believes Right to Buy has been the death of affordable housing. Founder and owner Simon Allso says: “A minority of people have made fortunes out of it. This means the majority have been priced out of the market. Our homes will always be accessible to lower paid UK citizens because the homes in high land value areas will be affordable in perpetuity (having a restriction on the resale of original purchase price plus inflation), LCC’s affordable housing is limited to people with an income up to a certain amount and they must not already own a home. These are virtually the only restrictions – to keep it simple. As soon as things become complex, people will find loop holes.”

Allso says one of the most common questions he is asked is, “Why would anyone want to buy a house that doesn’t appreciate in value other than by inflation?’ and says his answer is, “To live in it, to be proud of it, to feel secure and happy in it.” He believes the question says everything about what is wrong with people’s attitudes to their homes in the UK.

“The country has become so immersed in housing that goes up in value that a whole generation has blocked its successors from early entry into the housing market.”

The company behind this new dawn is not focused solely on profits. Really. The company is profitable, of course…it has to be. It just doesn’t try and make as much profit as it possibly can.

Its director Bridgette Farrow is more interested in the satisfaction she gets from knowing her fellow citizens are living in ‘forever’ homes, in which they feel secure, warm and safe.

Its owner, Simon Allso says that whilst no viable business is unprofitable and of course LCC needs to make profit, his focus is in doing the right thing.

One of LCC’s goals is to find a local authority to let it build an affordable town for them. This will be in years to come, because of the speed – or lack of it – at which a local authority is obliged to work. The vision is a little bit like Port Sunlight – but instead of being paternalistically focused on employees, it will be open to all. Its shops and amenities will be run by existing national organisations, and its accommodation will suit everyone in that community, from young first time buyers, through families and retirement, to care for the elderly.

It is the difference in LCC’s values and focus that have driven these new ways of thinking, and it will take some profound change to get others to think the same way.

How does LCC do it?

“Firstly, we don’t have rent and rates, because we have temporary housing assembly factories,” explains Bridgette Farrow. “There is little fixed overhead, as there is no big management structure, which is a very big cost for a major builder.

“Secondly, we have a chain of 58 committed supply partners who believe in the way we are working, and who have gone all out to supply their absolute best products at affordable prices; and of course, there is cost efficiency because of the volumes.”

LCC’s published objective in 2018 is it wants to get 50 land options going with planning permission thereafter across the country. At the moment it has 12 involving 6,900 units.

Even LCC’s way of purchasing land is different. “We buy by the square metre for the land, not by the acre,” explains Farrow. “This means the owner gets a reflective price of the density on the land rather than the acreage. Traditional house builders tend to buy by the acre and try to make a land gain. Although we tailor what we do to the local need, we tend to put, say, 18 houses per acre on a site. A housebuilder we talked to recently will want to do 50 per acre. That’s a major difference.”

Farrow and Allso want to “see people with their own driveway, and their own front door.” Continues Farrow: “Family living requires this sort of property. From my point of view, high rise buildings are prisons in the sky. People need space, they need a community. We are not just creating a development. If we build around 1000 homes, we are creating a whole community and if we build around say 200 homes we are extending an existing community.”

“Where we build a whole community, we will provide a village pub, a pharmacy, newsagent, post office, baker – all the essential services. We will install CCTV, for crime detection and prevention, (not monitored but available to the police) to try and make sure our communities are safe.”

“On larger sites we will allocate land to build about 50 assisted living homes plus a 100-bed care home with the idea of making the care home available to the local authority so that it is also available to the wider community but with priority being given to those already living on the development.”

Farrow concludes: “We have a real task on our hands getting our message across about our need for land. If anyone from a local authority or central government, a large housing developer to a private house builder or even a corporate with a brownfield site wants to help us create affordable communities, please contact us.”