Richard Carr explains the government’s reforms to affordable housing

In his latest blog, Richard Carr looks at the government’s recent announcement that it will look to relax affordable housing requirements on small scale developments.

Changes to planning obligations

Richard Carr operates as a commercial and residential development consultant for Jacob Carr Homes Ltd. He is an expert in achieving planning consent on both residential and commercial developments, examples of his work can be seen on the ‘Development’ page of his website.

Last month, the government issued its response to the consultation had about Section 106 of the Planning Contributions policy.

Below are the key points:

  • A 10-unit threshold for s106 affordable housing contributions is to be introduced.
  • Affordable housing and tariff style contributions will not be sought on sites of 10-units or less, and those which have a maximum combined gross floor space of 1,000 square metres.
  • Authorities may choose to implement a lower threshold of 5-units or less for designated rural areas under section 157 of the Housing Act 1985, which includes National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
  • Within these designated areas, if the 5-unit threshold is implemented then payment of affordable housing and tariff style contributions on developments of between 6 to 10 units should also be sought as a cash payment only and be commuted until after completion of units within the development.
  • These changes will not apply to Rural Exception Sites.
  • A financial credit, equivalent to the existing gross floorspace of any vacant buildings brought back into any lawful use or demolished for re-development, should be deducted from the calculation of any affordable housing contributions sought from relevant development schemes. This will not however apply to vacant buildings which have been abandoned.

National Infrastructure Plan

On December 2nd, the government published a number of documents to highlight its progress on delivery and outlined its long-term plans for UK infrastructure.

The government has said that it will:

  • Publish proposals for Compulsory Purchase Reforms for consultation at Budget 2015 with the aim of bringing forward more brownfield land for development. Government will take forward measures to ensure that the principle of development need only be established once.
  • Take steps to speed up section 106 negotiations, to reduce delays to the planning process.
  • Keep speed of major decisions under review, with minimum performance thresholds increasing to 50% of major decisions made on time as performance improves.
  • Support a new garden town at Bicester to provide up to 13,000 new homes subject to value for money.
  • Set ambitious targets for the release of public sector land between 2015 and 2020, with capacity for up to 150,000 homes.
  • Extend affordable housing capital investment to 2018-19 and 2019-20, to ensure that 275,000 new affordable homes can be delivered over the next Parliament.
  • Publish new data on Local Authorities’ performance in meeting their statutory duty to process smaller planning applications within 8 weeks; work with industry and Local Authorities to test whether more can be done to support the approval of small sites in the planning system.

A much needed policy change

In the opinion of Richard Carr, this is a much needed policy which has sent LPA’s in a head spin. The draconian policy that saw LPA’s stop dead small starter apartment and house schemes, has been freed by this policy.

What this goes to prove however, is that an over bureaucratic planning system that locked down social housing has been very unsuccessful, all schemes should be tariff based in my opinion which would then let developers know on day one what their costs are and in turn what the residual land value is!