PROPERTY speculation has been blamed for the increasing difficulty of building affordable homes – but relief may be just around the corner.

Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Geoff Raw took aim this week at developers’ practice of buying land, getting planning consent and then selling it on for a profit because it has planning consent attached.

He said the practice is contributing to the difficulty the council is having in meeting its target that developers’ projects should include 40 per cent affordable units.

If a developer can show the independent District Valuer Service (DVS) that to include so many affordable homes would make a project unviable due to the high cost of the land, the developer will be allowed to offer a smaller percentage.

In November, the city council planning committee approved plans for an eight-storey block of 60 homes where the Sackville Hotel once stood in Kingsway, Hove.

Only ten of the 60 will be affordable – five affordable rented units and five shared-ownership units.

The site has passed through several hands and been granted planning permission for several projects in the years since the hotel was demolished in 2006.

Outlining his concerns to the audits and standards committee this week, council chief executive Geoff Raw said: “It’s a particular issue in this city because we’re a high demand area.”

However committee chairman Councillor Joe Miller saw light at the end of the tunnel, saying once the council shifts to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), expected to be voted in later this year, the practice will be disincentivised.

He told The Argus yesterday: “I think the chief executive raises an interesting point.

“But once we move to the CIL, that will place obligations on the land on a square-foot basis, towards affordable housing building.

“So that will make schemes more viable and speculation less profitable.”

He said the new system would factor in the cost of building affordale homes, making the differential between the price of land with and without planning consent less interesting to developers.

Asked whether it was possible for the council to place its own more stringent requirements on housebuilders to make use of planning consent they receive, he said it was set by central Government and a change would risk putting off development.