Concerns over watering down of affordable housing commitments

Taylor Scott International News

Property experts are warning of an affordable housing time bomb in the UK which needs addressing to ensure enough homes are not only built but in the pipeline to cover future demand. It follows a recent case where a new appeal mechanism to remove the obligation of a developer to provide affordable housing was implemented and may open the flood gates for others to follow suit. Prior to the recession, many property developments were granted consent on the basis that, under section 106 agreements, a certain percentage of what was to be built would be earmarked for social housing. However, as the downturn began to bite, many developers found that the projects they were involved in were becoming increasingly unviable and sought to reduce the number of these properties and replace them with dwellings for private sale. Before 2008, local councils were able to stand their ground with regard to social and affordable housing requirements. But as the recession took hold and developers started to withdraw on their affordable housing commitments, councils were held over a barrel. It now seems that a new mechanism introduced through the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 is being used by developers to reduce their affordable housing commitments and follows a number of recent cases where the affordable housing requirements were reduced. This includes a development in Gloucestershire where the affordable housing commitment went from 20% on one site and 30% on a second site to 14.1% across the two. Another case in Exeter resulted in the affordable housing provision being reduced to zero. Angus Taylor from property consultants Bruton Knowles now believes that developers and councils need to work closely together before committing to a scheme so that a reasonable balance is struck between the provision of affordable housing stock while allowing developers to make any scheme viable and profitable. ‘Although we’re coming out of the recession, I believe there is going to be more cases where developers appeal on their affordable housing commitments. Coupled with a reduction in the number of affordable houses being built during the recession has made for a perfect storm in affordable housing provision,’ he said. ‘What’s key is that developers undertake stringent viability studies prior to the submission of any planning application. That way they know what the bottom line will be before any work is carried out,’ he explained. ‘Councils also have to be reasonable in their demands on what they’re asking developers to provide, otherwise nothing will get built leaving a shortfall of both private and affordable housing. What we don’t want is for this ruling to turn into a free for all where developers en masse appeal against their prior commitments,’ he added. Continue reading →

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