Building in Green Belt areas will not deliver the affordable housing Enfield Council claims

There is an urgent need for more affordable housing.

Enfield needs around 10,500 affordable homes, including 3,500 Social Rent homes with 3+ bedrooms. These family homes are needed to provide permanent and safe housing for the thousands of families with children currently living in temporary accommodation and in other unsuitable conditions across Enfield e.g. in housing that is overcrowded, unhealthy or unsafe.  

Thousands of affordable homes are also needed for first-time buyers who are struggling to get on the housing ladder and who are unable to afford a home in Enfield, near where they grew up or within a reasonable commuting distance from their work.  
[See Appendix 1 for more information about housing needs in Enfield]

Enfield Council claims building on Green Belt areas will deliver the affordable homes needed.

Enfield Council has put forward proposals in its draft Local Plan that will allow around 6,500 homes to be built on Green Belt areas over the next 20-years. The council says that building on these areas will deliver thousands of new affordable family homes and claims that: “Development in the Green Belt areas is a more viable form of development and allows the borough to deliver at least 50% of housing on Green Belt sites as affordable housing products”. [1]

The council’s claim is incorrect.

The council’s claim that development in the Green Belt areas will deliver at least 50% affordable housing is based on the findings of a ‘viability assessment’. [2]

However, this viability assessment did not report that “at least 50%” affordable housing could be delivered in Green Belt areas, it reported that “up to 50%” could be delivered on greenfield sites. [3] Up to 50%” on greenfield sites is completely different from “at least 50%” in Green Belt areas.

The viability assessment also stated that it had been unable to fully account for the full costs associated with building on specific sites. For example, it was unable to account properly for road building and infrastructure costs. These costs directly impact the amount of affordable housing that can be delivered in Green Belt areas and need to be accounted for.

Unsurprisingly, the assessment’s authors cautioned against drawing firm conclusions. [4] However, the council appears to have ignored this note of caution and has made a claim about affordable housing on Green Belt areas which is both incorrect and misleading.

The council’s claim is contradicted by ‘real-world’ evidence.

Research that examines the types of homes that actually get built in Green Belt areas shows that only a small proportion of these are “affordable”. The average, based on a sample of over 17,000 homes, is about 10%. [5]

Furthermore, many of the new homes classified as “affordable” in Green Belt areas are likely to be 1-2-bedroom Shared Ownership flats, which are unaffordable to most first-time buyers currently living in Enfield, and do not help families in need of affordable to rent housing.

For example, purchasing a 2-bed Shared Ownership flat on a current Green Belt development in Enfield requires an income of at least £67,000 per year, almost twice the average household income in Enfield. [6, 7]

Of the 6,500 homes proposed for the Green Belt areas in Enfield it is highly plausible – based on the evidence – that these sites will not deliver any Social Rent family housing at all and will do very little to help Enfield’s first-time buyers.  

There are better alternatives.

Enfield needs to build more affordable homes, but there are better options than building unaffordable homes in Green Belt areas.  The evidence shows that regenerated brownfield sites deliver far more Social Rent family housing and affordable housing for Enfield’s first-time buyers than housing built in Green Belt areas. [8]

Building new housing on regenerated brownfield sites also brings other benefits. These sites are often in sustainable locations and near existing infrastructure.  Brownfield regeneration can help to create new jobs and bring investment into urban areas, which benefits existing residents. Investment in brownfield sites can be used to decontaminate land, create new local parks, develop better climate change protections, enhance public services, and improve access to safe active travel routes.  

For example, the Meridian Water site in Upper Edmonton already has planning approval for 3,050 homes of which at least 256 will be Social Rent homes (i.e. affordable) with 3+ bedrooms.  [9] Once the scheme is complete it should have delivered at least 840 of these homes. [10] In total around 4,000 of the homes eventually built at Meridian Water will be “affordable” homes, which is four times higher than what would be achieved in Green Belt areas. [11]

There has already been enormous investment made in the regeneration of Meridian Water including significant infrastructure and a new train station, which should help to increase the investment appeal in the surrounding areas and help unlock growth gains on other brownfield sites. Unfortunately, despite this enormous investment and the benefits the redevelopment of Meridian Water could bring in terms of affordable housing, employment and urban regeneration, the council has decided not to complete the scheme until 2055. [12]

However, even without Meridian Water, there are still sufficient brownfield sites across Enfield to deliver the housing needed over the next 20-years.  More information can be found on this here. [13] 

If the council genuinely wants to build the type of homes needed by Enfield’s first-time buyers and the thousands of families and children currently living in unsuitable conditions in Enfield, and which will truly help the local community, then it should follow the real-world evidence and focus its efforts and limited resources on regenerating brownfield sites. It should not allow itself to be distracted from this task by those eager to benefit from building unaffordable housing on Enfield’s Green Belt.

You can download this report and the appendix and references here

Better Homes Enfield
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