In response to John Cass’s letter about house building the city council’s financial constraints will not impact the development of Tipner (We need to be told, Aug 8).
It is — and always was — proposed that the bulk of the new homes there would be built by the private sector and that the council would sell parcels of land to builders.
The land sales would come with restrictions so that the completed scheme was roughly compatible with the masterplan.
Personally, I would like to see the city council retain a proportion of the site to develop some private rented sector housing of its own. Whether that happens will depend on the financial viability at the time.
Turning to affordable housing, councils are at a disadvantage against housing associations when building affordable homes for four reasons.
(1) Until recently, grants were available to housing associations (but not to local authorities) to help pay for new homes.
(2) Council homes are subject to the right-to-buy, for which the council receives no financial help.
The government has previously indicated its intention to extend discounts to housing associations, but then to reimburse them by requiring councils to sell a proportion of their properties when they fall empty.
I suspect this will never actually be implemented, but time will tell.
(3) Permission is needed from the government for councils to borrow money for social housing and requests have generally not been granted.
The reason behind this is that all council borrowing counts as part of the national deficit and debt, whereas housing association debt does not. (4) Developers of large sites are required to sell a proportion of their units to housing associations at a discounted price.
There are signs that housing associations are slowing their building programmes in response to the loss of grant, which is why it is important that the two major approved schemes in Portsmouth, at Goldsmith Avenue and in Fratton Road are built before funds run out.
As for the city council, it will continue to provide the greatest number of council houses that it can within the resources available to it.
Cllr Luke Stubbs
(Cons, Portsmouth City Council)
South Parade, Southsea