Plans submitted for major York brownfield regeneration

61% of councils say that National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) viability tests hinder their ability to secure sufficient social and affordable homes to meet local need, and only 2% of councils reported that developments in their area meet planning policy for affordable housing.

The online survey was commissioned by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and was sent to all councils in England with 88 responding.

Viability tests give the opportunity for developers to renege on commitments to build affordable housing made while applying for planning permission if they can successfully argue that such housing would reduce their profit margin.

The survey asked councils about the types of affordable housing which are being required in planning policy, including social rent, and whether policies are in place that link affordability to income in their areas.

Nearly two-fifths (39%) of councils think that their local plan is not sufficiently ambitious enough to meet the local need for affordable housing, with councils calling on the Government to show leadership in the final revised NPPF which would create ambitious but realistic planning policies for affordable housing.

70% of councils said the current definition of affordable housing  means they will not meet the need for affordable housing in their local area.

The reasons given by councils include the omission of social rent from the new definition, and the linking of affordability with market prices rather than local incomes.

They have called on the Government to ensure that the final definition in the final revised NPPF reflects the views of councils about their ability to secure affordable homes through the planning process.

Henry Smith, projects and policy manager at the TCPA, said: ‘The current model of delivering affordable housing isn’t ever going to work. Low-paid workers are being pushed further and further out of their towns and cities, enduring longer and costlier commutes and enjoying less time at home.

‘Where will they go? There will be a time when people just stop travelling such long distances to get to work and whole sectors become critically understaffed.’

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, said: ‘Our latest research reveals that 98% of councils have identified the need for affordable homes in their local authorities as severe or moderate.

‘Alongside financial freedoms, councils need a planning system that enables them to deliver more genuinely affordable homes.

‘The Government should ensure that the definition of an affordable homes set out in the new NPPF is based on a measure of income and not pegged to an arbitrary proportion of market price.’

In January, a group of MPs has called on the Government to abolish the borrowing cap for councils and let them build more homes, which is a point echoed by Mr Smith of the TCPA.

He said: ‘The government must lift the HRA borrowing cap not only in high-value areas but everywhere. The only way we can ease the demand for all housing types is if councils are given the responsibility to manage their own stock and finally provide some competition for the private sector.’

Read the report here.

Thomas Barrett

Journalist - follow him on Twitter

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