CS16: Affordable Housing

CS16: Affordable Housing

Affordable housing comprises social rented and intermediate housing provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. On-site affordable housing provision will be sought to meet local needs on all residential developments of 15 dwellings or more (or on sites of 0.5 hectare or above).  On all other sites the council will seek to negotiate a financial contribution towards the provision of affordable housing.

Within North Somerset the target for the provision of affordable housing is at least 155 dwellings per annum.  To reflect identified needs this will be provided as 82% social rented housing and 18% intermediate housing. 

The precise size and type of affordable housing to be provided on individual sites will be determined through negotiation, guided by the Strategic Housing Market Assessment, data from the housing needs register, and local housing needs surveys.  The presumption is that to create mixed and balanced communities affordable housing will be provided on-site without the need for public subsidy.  Only in exceptional circumstances where it can be robustly justified, off-site provision or a financial contribution in lieu of off-site provision (of equivalent value) may be acceptable where it contributes to the objective of creating mixed and balanced communities.

The capacity of a site to deliver a level of affordable housing that can be supported financially will be determined by individual site viability analysis.  This analysis will take into consideration existing use values, as well as other site specific factors.  The assessment will be made having regard to the residual land value once the cost of development has been deducted.  There is no upper limit to the potential affordable housing provision or contribution, but a benchmark of 30% will be sought as a starting point. This benchmark is aimed at meeting local need.  Local need is not fixed and changes over time can vary between housing type, size and tenure.  The policy refers to current identified need.

Guidance on the level of contribution expected from sites below the threshold will be set out elsewhere following viability assessment and reviewed on a regular basis.

This policy contributes towards achieving the objectives of Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing

Background

The national definition of affordable housing as set out in PPS3 Annex B:

"Affordable housing includes social rented and intermediate housing, provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Affordable housing should:

  • Meet the needs of eligible households including availability at a cost low enough for them to afford, determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices.
  • Include provision for the home to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or, if these restrictions are lifted, for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision".

One of the key elements of sustainable development is to ensure the creation of mixed and balanced communities, including an appropriate supply of affordable housing. The emerging Regional Spatial Strategy proposes that within the region as a whole, provision will be made for at least 35% of all housing developments to be affordable. Policies should specify targets for and proportions of affordable housing, and an appropriate division of affordable housing between social rented and intermediate tenures to help and secure an appropriate supply of affordable housing in the wider context of maintaining an overall five year housing land supply.

PPS3 paragraph 29 makes it clear that local planning authorities need to undertake an informed assessment of the economic viability of any thresholds and proportions of affordable housing proposed, including their likely impact upon overall levels of housing delivery and the creation of mixed communities.

Within North Somerset the Strategic Housing Market Assessment identified a significant shortfall of affordable housing in relation to needs.

The Core Strategy approach

The Core Strategy seeks to set out a realistic and viable approach to the delivery of affordable housing. For consultation it is proposed to retain the existing Replacement Local Plan target of 30% affordable housing as a benchmark against which schemes will be assessed, as well as the approach of seeking on-site affordable housing provision on sites of 15 dwellings/0.5ha. In addition, the council will seek to negotiate a financial contribution towards affordable housing delivery from all other residential developments. In all cases this will be subject to the viability testing of schemes. The council will be assessing economic viability of affordable housing contributions through the delivery work supporting the Core Strategy.

Affordable housing

How and where the policy will be delivered

The main opportunity to deliver affordable housing numbers is through open market schemes delivering a proportion of affordable housing. The principal opportunity will be at the Weston Urban Extension where this will make a significant contribution towards addressing the area with highest identified needs, although deliverability must take into account the employment-led approach and other requirements. Provision of affordable housing will be primarily through Registered Social Landlords.

Detailed implementation will be through the use of planning briefs and site specific negotiations, taking account of needs evidence, and deliverability aspects. The level of affordable housing contributions will be tested by economic viability analysis provided by the developer who will be responsible for all reasonable costs associated with its production. This will be assessed by the council or an independent surveyor.

North Somerset Council will co-ordinate the approach through its housing and planning functions, and through partnership working.

Alternative options and contingency planning

a) Apply a lower threshold than 15 dwellings for on site contributions.

The national minimum size threshold is 15 dwellings although PPS3 states that local planning authorities can set lower minimum thresholds where viable and practicable.

Other options include using thresholds for on-site provision of:

  • 10 dwellings
  • 5 dwellings
  • 5 dwellings within rural areas only.

Reducing the threshold to 10 or five dwellings will catch more sites, but their overall contribution to affordable housing is unlikely to be significant. Reducing the threshold to five in the rural areas would potentially deliver more sites in areas where larger sites are unlikely to occur. Further evidence would be required on viability.

b) Use a different percentage target for affordable housing

The Replacement Local Plan uses 30%, while the emerging RSS suggests increasing this to 35% while evidence suggests a higher figure could be justified. The headline percentage is important in terms of providing clarity to landowners and developers but the key test is viability on a site by site basis. An alternative would be not to use any headline percentage target and to seek the maximum amount of affordable housing a site is able to deliver and still remain viable.

Monitoring and review

Affordable housing will be monitored on an annual basis in terms of permissions, commitments and completions, and the type and tenure of housing delivered. Overall delivery will be assessed in five year tranches, and the policy approach reviewed as appropriate.

The Local Area Agreement target is for 155 affordable houses to be provided per annum.