This reports sets out the Quarter 1 progress report for the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal to the Growth Board.
The Panel considered a report to the Growth Board which set out an update on progress at Quarter 1, Year 2 (2019/2020) of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal. Aaron Rosser and Paul Staines, Growth Deal Service Delivery Managers, presented the report to the Panel.
The following points of the report were highlighted to the Panel:
· The Housing from Infrastructure Programme (HFI) included a commitment to spend £30m per annum on infrastructure projects that have been identified as enabled for planned growth in Oxfordshire. The total value of the programme was £150m.
· This expenditure would accelerate the delivery of 6,549 planned homes.
· The Year 1 target had been achieved. This had been partially assisted by several previously developed projects that had reached a point where they could be moved quickly into the delivery phase. The outlook for Year 2 was more challenging. This was because activity on the design and research of schemes was relatively low cost at the beginning of the programme, whereas higher cost construction could be delivered later.
· Work was in progress to maximise as much spend in Year 2 as possible and to better understand a realistic cost profile of the programme as it matured. As this work continued, officers would be better able to predict the progress of schemes.
· The trajectory for the programme was positive, with an estimate of 8,584 homes for the HFI element of the Growth Deal by Year 5. This was not, however, without risk and, therefore, efforts were being directed to assess and mitigate against any blockages which could stop this forecast from being achieved.
The Panel referred to the section of the report relating to the Oxfordshire Affordable Housing Programme (OAHP) and noted that in para. 19, the current predicted total budget drawdown was £50.755m against an indicative budget of £60m. Officers acknowledged the challenges to the OAHP and that this reflected a reduction in grant spending. There had been a reduction in spending towards supporting social renting in comparison to shared ownership, but a key focus of officers remained to ensure full spend against the budget.
The Panel noted the challenges to the OAHP, including the competitiveness of the current grant rates, which ongoing discussions with Homes England were trying to address. Grant rates for supporting social renting, whilst felt to be optimum at the time of the agreement of the Deal, had not proved to be as attractive as anticipated to registered providers of social housing. Potential mitigations included that partner registered providers might use recycled capital grant funds obtained when homes were sold under right to buy that were retained for recycling into new affordable housing alongside OAHP, use of Retained Right to Buy Receipts for councils with such receipts and the Homes England Strategic Partnership arrangement.
The Panel queried whether it would be legally permissible to use Section 106 funds secured for affordable housing to support OAHP. It was felt that this could only be for the offsite provision of affordable housing. In response, officers clarified that it was felt that funds could potentially be used in this way, but that it would be a matter for individual councils.
The Panel requested a list of infrastructure projects to support homes linked to the HFI (and their associated housing developments) so that progress might be tracked. Officers agreed to provide a table to set this out.
It was queried whether the HFI and OAHP had been revisited considering the passing of Climate Emergency motions by several Oxfordshire partner authorities. The Panel was informed that this had not explicitly been undertaken to date. The Growth Deal was a summation of all the partner authority ambitions, and it was clear that there was an ambition to promote affordable housing with a lower carbon footprint. If a requirement for lower carbon affordable homes was stipulated in local plans, then this would be what was delivered, but the potential effect on delivery trajectory had not yet been analysed. This might be a future potential item for consideration by the Growth Board Housing Advisory Sub-Group.
In relation to the risk management of the Homes from Infrastructure Programme (set out in paras. 15 and 16 of the report), the Panel requested further detail of the mitigation activities planned in relation to the identified key risks to the programme. Officers agreed to provide this information.
A general comment was made that although it was accepted that it would be impractical for the Panel to consider all the available information on the HFI and OAHP, it would be helpful to the Panel to have access to information such as notes, risk register etc. This would help to facilitate a much greater degree of analysis. Officers responded that the report had been written at a strategic level for the Growth Board, but that a more bespoke report could potentially be produced for the Panel if it wished.
RESOLVED: That officers be asked to provide:
1) information on Investment of infrastructure to support homes (HFI) in a table format linked to a list of housing developments.
2) further detail of the mitigation activities planned in relation to the identified key risks to the HFI programme.
The Panel also held a short discussion about a previous request for information regarding the delivery trajectory of affordable housing. Officers were thanked for drafting the response provided, but it was felt that a clarification was required. Officers were, therefore, tasked with producing annualised housing and affordable housing trajectories, with a graph comparing the actual versus forecast (4-year plan) and affordable housing as a percentage of overall housing completions. This information would be derived from the Annual Monitoring Reports.