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Home Truths

List of Frequently Asked Questions

There are many misconceptions about housing, development and planning – at times it can seem designed to confuse.

To a large extent construction of homes is out of the hands of our councils. We can set out places where we would like to see houses built in our Local Plans. And our planning departments can give permission for planning applications and set conditions around such matters as affordable housing and infrastructure but we no longer build houses of our own.

Our council housing stocks were transferred to housing associations some years ago. We cannot force anyone to build new homes – even if a site gets planning permission it may lay dormant for a number of reasons – from the cost of construction to changing circumstances of developers or landowners.

Opening Doors aims to regain the initiative and encourage greater housebuilding through a variety of means in a fair way for homebuyers and renters, developers, landowners and the community.

Read more below about Opening Doors and how we aim to help more people find a home of their own.

What is Opening Doors?

We are working with private sector developers, housing associations, landowners and other partners to encourage their involvement in the programme and explore potential sites for housing development.

What are the main aims of Opening Doors?

  • deliver a significant increase in the pace and volume of the construction of quality homes of differing tenures
  • help deliver homes which are locally affordable and built in the right areas where people need them but are planned with sensitivity towards Dorset’s environment, such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • contribute to a target of 20,000 extra homes from 2016 to 2033, which is included in the Western Dorset Economic Growth Strategy, across the councils’ areas, both open market and affordable.
  • deliver benefits for the community and local economy – including job creation and retention of key workers, such as those in the public sector. Having a steady supply of people may also help attract businesses to relocate here or expand

Why do you need to build more houses?

New homes are essential for the future sustainability, growth and prosperity of our communities.

According to the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, the county’s economy is set for growth across a number of sectors. Our population is due to expand, with people coming into the area to work, and an increasing number of people in the 65+ age group – many who will remain in under-occupied homes.

Furthermore, a shortage of homes and low wages has resulted in an ‘affordability gap’. In our areas the house prices to earnings ratio is much higher than the national average. This is resulting in younger people moving away from the area or employers being unable to recruit skilled or essential workers for their business and the local economy.

Lack of housing is a major barrier to economic growth and retaining/attracting a young workforce.

Mixed towns and villages – including young families, older people and those of working age – make for more vibrant and sustainable communities in the long run; bring all kinds of benefits from stronger economies to greater wellbeing and social cohesion.

How do the figures break down?

The target is to build a total of 20,000 homes by 2033 in the North Dorset, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland areas. This works out at 1,176 per year over 17 years from 2016 to 2033. The breakdown is 775 per year for West Dorset/Weymouth & Portland and 285-330 per year for North Dorset,

Last year (2016-17) a total of 914 homes were built (772 in West Dorset/Weymouth & Portland, and 142 in North Dorset). An average of 737 homes have been built annually over the past five years. This number needs to be increased by more than 40% in future.

Is Opening Doors about meeting housebuilding targets?

Opening Doors goes beyond simple bricks and mortar.

It is about building communities – strong, vibrant, sustainable and balanced communities. These will grow and prosper with the right mix of housing for families, residents and workers placed in the right locations to balance the need for housing with protecting Dorset’s environment.

How will Opening Doors achieve its aims?

  • By engaging with communities, home seekers, developers and other key stakeholders.
  • Supporting community land trusts (CLTs) as a whole and encourage take-up across our areas. CLTs are led by local people to meet housing need in their area. Typically, they will identify sites and work with partners including the council, housing associations and developers to build homes which are affordable. The CLT will retain ownership of the land and receive an annual ground rent from the housing association. We have a £2m fund to support CLTs. Land Trusts are already operating in towns and villages such as Bridport, Buckland Newton, Lyme Regis, Powerstock and Toller Porcorum.
  • Launching a new Home Ownership Register, a waiting list for people interested in buying a new home or renting a home. The register will allow people to receive information on potential new-build developments and log their interest.
  • Identifying potential new sites for homes and actively looking to bring new life to stalled sites, which already have planning permission in place for homes, and brownfield sites that have the potential for residential development.
  • Encouraging greater involvement of small and medium-sized developers active in Dorset and further afield as well as those who are new to the market.
  • A Brownfield Register to give information about potential opportunities to smaller developers.
  • Promoting self-build options through the Self-Build Register and offering advice and assistance to people looking to self-build.
  • Collaboration, partnership and consultation with communities, agencies and other stakeholders, including housing associations, public bodies (such as other local authorities, NHS and emergency services), the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), developers, landowners, landlords, land agents, planning consultants and architects.
  • We are looking at potential joint ventures and/or a council-led housing development company to help drive house building forward – essentially building our own houses, using council land for construction or buying land for development, although not to build all 20,000 homes in our 2033 target.
  • Our planning policies are not designed to put obstacles in the way but to ensure the best possible scheme is built. It is in everyone’s interest to see quality development and we work with applicants or agents as much as we can to help them through the planning process. We’re also aiming to make the planning process smoother, including at the pre-application stage and welcome early contact from applicants, agents, developers and landowners.

Is there a demand for new housing?

There is a great demand for housing of all kinds – whether it is new, open market, affordable, private rented, shared ownership, housing association supplied or through Community Land Trusts.

For social housing, there are currently 902 people on the North Dorset‘s Housing Register, 1572 people on West Dorset’s Housing Register and 1539 on Weymouth & Portland’s Housing Register.

Our population is set to increase, while the proportion of people of working age is set to fall unless we take action to make more homes available. A shortage of supply is also making it difficult to attract and keep key workers in the area.

Providing new, decent and more affordable homes will also reduce the need for young people to move away, which in turn will help the local economy and the essential infrastructure that serves the public.

Is this programme just aimed at delivering more affordable homes?

No. We need a mixed tenure of homes to appeal to the different sectors that live in the area and to also attract developers.

However, a home building programme will help us meet our targets on affordable housing.

A mix of housing of all kinds, including affordable, is important for creating thriving communities which are balanced and sustainable. A good range of housing for families, older people, workers and single people will help communities grow.

Have any sites for housing already been identified for housing?

There are sites allocated for housing in the Local Plans and we will very much be looking at these to encourage plans to come forward.

We are targeting the larger urban areas first and brownfield sites that have the potential for housing.

We are also actively looking at sites that already have planning permission in place for housing but have not yet been developed.

See the sites in our local plan here.

How can local authorities play an influential role in housebuilding?

Local authorities play an important role in housing as we hold the housing register of people in the area requesting social housing and provide daily advice to people in housing need.

We also oversee the housing strategy which plots out the long term aims and vision for meeting housing need in the area.

As the local planning authority we play a key role in determining the sites and policies that will help meet the national building targets that are set by government.

We are the main local player that can bring together developers, housing providers and residents.

It is also within our powers to buy and acquire land, which we can prioritise for housing. We also have the ability to apply for certain grants to allow developments to proceed, such as the Housing Infrastructure Fund.

We also have £2m worth of grants to support Community Land Trusts (CLTs).

I’m a developer or builder – how do I find out more about Opening Doors?

We are keen to talk with developers, housebuilders, landowners, agents, business and organisations whatever their size or location to find out more about how they can get involved or for their views on any obstacles to development from their perspective.

We have been awarded Housing Business Ready status by the Housing Finance Institute (HFI). This means that we have the commitment, leadership and expertise to allow greater levels of housebuilding, whatever the changes in government policies and the housing market over the coming years.

There may also be potential for joint ventures and/or a council led housing development company.

As mentioned above, our planning policies are not designed to put obstacles in the way. We work with applicants or agents as much as we can to help them through the planning process.

Contact our commercial housing enabler Clyde Lambert on clambert@dorset.gov.uk

I’m a resident and would like to register my interest in Opening Doors

Register for our e-newsletter here or email us at info@openingdoorsdorset.co.uk.

We are launching a new home ownership register, where people can register their interest in buying or renting a new home.