The DCN supports the aim of First Homes to help more people buy their own homes in their local area. We recognise that many households aspire to home ownership but are unable to do so due to issues of availability and affordability. However, we do have some key concerns in respect of the proposals put forward in the consultation paper and these are summarised below:
- The delivery of the First Homes scheme must not be at the expense of the delivery of other affordable housing tenures and, especially, not at the expense of delivering affordable rented and social rented homes. A blanket approach to setting price caps and income caps with little or no local variation will work against the scheme targeting the right households in specific locations.
- The proposal to use Section 106 contributions to deliver First Homes would almost certainly result in a reduced supply of other affordable housing tenures. This will have a knock-on effect in councils meeting the needs of households seeking assistance via Council Housing Waiting Lists and homelessness services (including rough sleepers).
- The DCN has concerns that the First Homes initiative could slow down the overall pace of delivery; affordable rent homes delivered through S106 contributions can often be purchased upfront as a block by Registered Providers, providing money and therefore certainty for developers to move forward on delivery of the full-price ‘market’ housing. With First Homes, it is possible that the criteria of local connection, however well-intentioned, may mean that such properties may not sell as quickly, and therefore be built as quickly, potentially hindering overall scheme delivery.
- Many of the proposed measures would also create significant additional administrative burdens on Councils, with the need to increase staffing and funding levels.
- The DCN considers that it is imperative that the First Homes initiative is the subject of a pilot process before being rolled out in full, with participants in the pilot areas (covering a range of different areas and circumstances across England) working closely with MHCLG and other arms of Government to plan and monitor how the initiative is working. It is critical that there is proper time taken to reflect on the experiences in the pilot areas and make improvements to the scheme (including further consultation) before it is then rolled out nationally.
Read our response here: DCN response to First Homes v1.
4 May 2020