Delivering Value through Affordable Housing

29th November 2018

The delivery of affordable housing through the planning system using Section 106 agreements has always been a controversial requirement since its introduction. However, it is now widely accepted as a necessary tool to deliver much-needed accommodation for those not able to pay the open market rate. We can assist clients with navigating their way through the planning system to achieve the best possible outcome.

The role of affordable housing providers has transformed over recent years. Endless changes in grants and funding options have led them to have to act more commercially to raise funding for their own development projects. They are often now competing on the open market for development sites and sometimes building private housing units within their schemes, so they can sell them to raise further funding.

Whilst there are now competing pressures for funding and delivery that have made the job harder, there have been some changes in planning policy in recent years that have given affordable housing providers new opportunities to deliver development.

Using the broader definition of rural exception schemes in the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework, Bell Cornwell was able to secure a planning permission for a scheme which included some open market housing necessary to enable the delivery of the affordable units. Find out more here.

Using the provision of 100% affordable housing as a very special circumstance to justify the complete redevelopment of a partially previously developed site in the Green Belt, Bell Cornwell gained planning permission for a development of 55 dwellings without needing to go through the Local Plan site promotion route. Find out more here.

Most recently, the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework now formalises a broader definition of affordable housing to meet a range of different needs. It also includes additional provisions to allow for the development of affordable housing in the Green Belt. The following are now accepted as appropriate development in the Green Belt.

  • Limited affordable housing to meet local community needs in line with development plan policies; and
  • Proposals for limited infilling or the partial or complete redevelopment of previously developed sites that would contribute to meeting an identified affordable housing need within the area.

The test for infilling or redevelopment schemes to be acceptable is that they must ‘not cause substantial harm’ to the openness of the Green Belt. This is a lower bar than for non-affordable housing, which must ‘not have had greater impact’ on the openness of the Green Belt in order to be acceptable. There is also a debate, which will be borne out in due course, concerning whether this provision allows for financial contributions to be made towards off-site provision rather than necessarily being required on site.

There are many ways in which the planning system can be effectively used to secure the delivery of affordable housing. Equally, there are many ways in which affordable housing can be an option to release value from development sites which may not otherwise be achievable.

Bell Cornwell would be delighted to discuss the potential with you whether you are an affordable house provider, a private developer or owner.

For more information please contact Partner, Rebekah Jubb.

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