Plans for 80 new homes in Marston moved a step closer with Oxford City Housing Ltd (OCHL) securing planning permission for its biggest development to date.
Oxford City Council’s housing company will now build 80 new homes on land west of Mill Lane in Marston. The development will feature 13 one-bed flats, 28 two-bed houses, 35 three-bed houses and 4 four-bed houses.
Half of the new homes will be affordable, with 32 council homes let at social rent and eight homes sold on a shared ownership basis. Current plans are for the remaining 40 homes to be for market sale.
Social rent is calculated with reference to the size and value of a home and average regional incomes.
In Oxford, social rent is typically around 40% of equivalent private rents. Shared ownership gives people who can’t afford to buy a home outright the opportunity to buy a share of it and pay rent on the rest.
The new development will aim for carbon emissions 70% below current building regulations – helping Oxford on its journey to zero carbon for new housing by 2030.
This will be achieved by enhanced building fabric and airtightness standards, solar panels and the use of air-source heat pumps. Each house will have an electric car charging point, with at least two charging points for shared parking at the flats.
The development – known as Mill Lane Marston – will also include a new public open space, pedestrian and cycle connections to nearby areas and a locally-sensitive design approach.
Oxford City Council’s housing company will now begin the tender process and hopes to appoint a contractor by March 2022. Work could then begin in May, with the completion of the development expected by the end of 2023.
Mill Lane Marston is part of OCHL’s programme to build around 2,000 new homes for rent and sale over the coming decade.
Together with 354 council homes being built at Barton Park, this will see more than 1,100 new council homes providing the genuinely affordable housing that Oxford needs.
This programme will represent the first significant development of council housing in Oxford since the 1970s.
Another 300 homes are expected to be shared ownership and other affordable tenures. Shared ownership gives people the opportunity to get a foot on the property ladder by buying a stake in their homes that they would not otherwise be able to afford.
The remaining homes will be for market sale, and the money raised by selling them will subsidise the building of the council and other affordable housing.
OCHL is also in the process of establishing a procurement framework for modular housing that will play a vital role in ensuring new housing meets the 2030 zero carbon target.
This framework will also provide the resources and expertise to unlock difficult sites that traditional developers would be unable to do while meeting the council’s requirements for affordable homes.
High demand and scarce availability mean that Oxford is among the least affordable places for housing in the UK. People on average outcomes are priced out of the housing market, and private rents are nearly double the average for England as a whole.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2020, Oxford’s median house price was £400,000 – 11.72 times median gross household earnings (£34,124) in the city. For England as a whole, the median house price is 7.84 times median earnings.
Half (49.3%) of Oxford’s homes are in the private rented sector, where the ONS reports a median private rent of £1,450 a month for a three-bedroom home. The equivalent amount for England as a whole is £800.
Meanwhile, there are currently more than 2,850 households on the council’s housing waiting list.
The cost of housing pushes people into hardship, overcrowded conditions or out of Oxford altogether. Half of Oxford’s workers have to commute into a city they can’t afford to live in – leading to growing unaffordability, increased congestion and carbon emissions across Oxfordshire, as well as difficulties for employers in recruiting and retaining staff.
The cost of housing means that a third of Oxford’s children live below the poverty line and is a key factor behind poor educational outcomes.