National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #11 Housing Mix and Affordability

Ill deal with the remaining housing issues in this section.

The draft doesn’t deal with Gypsies and Travellers or travelleing show-people at all. Can we presume that the proposed revised circular will be rolled in

Housing Mix

Current national policy in PPS3 paras 23

Developers should bring forward proposals for market housing which reflect demand and the profile of households requiring market housing, in order to sustain mixed
communities. Proposals for affordable housing should reflect the size and type of affordable housing required.

And 24 – though 24 is confusingly worded, a lot seems to have got confused in the editing. How exactly does it apply differently for large and small sites?

The NPPF by contrast states that local planning authorities should:

  • plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community (such as families with children, the elderly, disabled people);
  •  identify the size, type, tenure and range of housing that is required in particular locations, reflecting local demand;

Note ‘local planning authorities should’  so if there is a S78 appeal where there is not yet a ‘local plan’ does the new ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ mean that no mix is required.  National policy should call a spade a spade if a mix is required it should say so.

It doesn’t need to say both market trends in the first bullet point and local demand in the second.  The absence in the second bullet of PPS3s ‘the profile of households requiring market housing’ could be taken as implying that the correction of market imbalances is less important.

It is entirely unclear that once a preferred mix is identified if that mix isnt provided whether a scheme could be refused.

The omission of ‘Proposals for affordable housing should reflect the size and type of affordable housing required.’ could see a return to developers only providing small sub-market or intermediate units even if the main need was for larger affordable family homes.  A big step backwards.   This phrase should be retained.

Affordable Housing

I’ll compare the draft with PPS3, as amended last week, and ‘Delivering Affordable Housing Policy Statement, Communities and Local Government, November 2006

The NPPF draft says

where affordable housing is required, set policies for meeting this need on site or through commuted payments with the objective of creating mixed and balanced communities. These policies should recognise the advantages of using commuted payments to improve and make effective use of the existing housing stock.

There is no reference to the setting of targets (PPS3 para 29).  Can authorities set targets, or only site targets now?

No longer any reference to setting targets for different types of affordable housing.  So would the familiar London 30/20 split policy be prohibited?

No reference to the ability to specify the size and type of affordable housing.  The only reference is to size of units overall.  Of course the size of affordable units needed may be completely different than for general market housing.

No reference to the ability to set out the range of circumstances in which affordable housing will be required i.e. thresholds.  It is right to let LPAs decide this.  But a sentence is needed to make this explicit.

Current PPS3 states

In seeking developer contributions, the presumption is that
affordable housing will be provided on the application site so that it contributes towards creating a mix of housing. However, where it can be robustly justified, off-site provision or a financial contribution in lieu of on- site provision (of broadly equivalent value) may be accepted as long as the agreed approach contributes to the creation of mixed communities in the local authority area.

Rather than a presumption against commuted payments we now have a presumption in favour. As the biggest issue is shortage of land at low price for affordable housing this could lead to a lessening of affordable housing provision with monies instead used for improving the existing stock. This is not an ‘advantage’ it only to the advantage of existing households. Planning is about meeting the needs of new households. The purpose of planning obligations is not to substitute for existing welfare expenditure but to provide new development and infrastructure. If this is permitted why not use CIF/S106 to pay for school meals? This section has to go.

No reference to rural exceptions site policy. It is right to let lpas decide the precise mechanism of provision in rural areas and allow flexibility. But at least a sentence is needed of the need for plans to provide for the special needs of rural settlements, and allow for unpredicted projects coming forward driven by neighbourhood imitative. The reference before only to site targets could be read by some to ruling out such provision.

The essence of paras 48 and 49 of delivering affordable housing should be retained – preventing conditions which prevent choice of affordable housing supplier.

The essence of para 78 of delivering affordable housing should be retained – mortgagee in possession and cascade conditions.  Even today many lpas have delivery models which make it difficult to get mortgages.

The essence of Para 91 of this should be included:
The Housing Corporation will use financial appraisal tools to help ensure that it receives value for grant from section 106 sites, ie that grant delivers additional benefits and does not artificially inflate land prices. An economic viability tool used by the Housing Corporation for this purpose is available from their website at: http://www.housingcorp.gov.uk

Otherwise public subsidy will not be effective it will raise land prices. There also needs to be a sentence on alternative options if no subsidy is obtained.

It is to be expected that the revised definitions of affordable housing and its sub-types agreed last week will be included in the consultation draft NPPF.

The revised PPS3 seems to have responded to consultation concerns that intermediate sub-market housing needs to meet the definition of affordability.  The definition seems strangely similer to several affordable housing SPDs I have written.

One thought on “National Planning Policy Framework Forensics #11 Housing Mix and Affordability

  1. Pingback: NPPF Draft, Key Text Changes#2 Off-Site Affordable Housing « Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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