The pressing need to deliver more affordable housing across our communities is accepted by most people, and it is becoming increasingly important as we plot our way through the pandemic and the economic impacts it is causing. The planning system plays a central role in determining how and where affordable homes are delivered, add in the layers of both national and local politics, and it can be a challenging environment in which to deliver the full range of homes that our communities need.
The current consultations on reforming the planning system are likely to have a very significant impact on the number and type of affordable homes that will be delivered in the future. The Government have set out an objective of delivering an increased supply of more affordable homes, whilst also unashamedly tilting the balance towards more forms of ‘home ownership’, with the First Homes initiative, and a drive to facilitate 95% loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages for first time buyers, at the front and centre of the initiatives being explored.
Yet some of the shorter, and indeed the longer-term reforms have left many in the affordable housing sector wondering how supply can even be maintained at current levels, let alone increased.
To encourage an increase in overall housing supply, at least in the short-term, the Government has proposed increasing the threshold above which a percentage of affordable homes would need to be delivered on site to either 50 or 60 dwellings – but research published last week by the Local Government Association demonstrated that if those rules had been applied over the last 5 year period, there would have been c.30,000 less affordable homes delivered.
The Government maintains that abolishing the current S106 and CIL regimes and replacing them with a new Infrastructure Levy, will result in affordable housing being adequately funded by an increase in the delivery of market ‘for sale’ housing – yet with little detail on how the levy, which would be calculated and paid on the end sale prices, will operate, has left many in the sector with more questions than answers.
And as Robert Jenrick announced last month, the £12 billion funding package for the next affordable housing programme from 2021 onwards, whilst the measures such as requiring improved build quality and MMC are largely welcomed, the lack of clarity around key aspects such as new forms of shared ownership, have left many questions unanswered as providers begin to work up their funding submissions.
As the G15 and other companies and organisations who take responsibility for the delivery in the sector provide detailed responses to the current consultations, it is hoped that the Government are in listening mode, else there are likely to be real challenges in meeting the affordable housing needs of our communities in the coming years.