New viability rules: fair, limited, transparent?
New viability rules: fair, limited, transparent?

On Monday, Theresa May’s government announced a shake-up of planning rules, including a new version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The aim is to get more homes built, as pretty much everyone now accepts that this is the best way to tackle the housing crisis.

Over the coming weeks, we will go through all these proposed planning changes with a fine-toothed comb to work out just what they mean for the supply of genuinely affordable homes. But for … Read more

Villages are unviable without affordable homes
Villages are unviable without affordable homes

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is known for sticking up for the countryside and rural communities, while Shelter is known for campaigning to end bad housing and homelessness. These are not two charities you might automatically pair together. However, both organisations have a long history of campaigning to ensure that the needs of communities are met, first and foremost, when housing developments are planned and delivered – countrywide, in Shelter’s case, and in rural areas, in CPRE’s. And … Read more

Local viability policy part 2: What should councils be doing about the viability loophole?

Part one of this blog looked at the councils getting tough on viability assessments. Faced with acute shortages of affordable housing, councils like Bristol City are pulling out all the stops to strengthen their position in Section 106 negotiations with developers. But the development of local policy to limit the damage being done by viability assessments is still in its early stages. Urban councils in areas of high housing demand in the south of England have been much more likely … Read more

Local viability policy part 1: ‘We are pushing the system as hard as we can, but it’s a rigged system.’

Those are the words of Bristol City Council’s cabinet member for housing, Paul Smith, describing his city’s battle against the viability loophole. In 2017, we showed how viability assessments are depriving local communities of the homes they need – with 2,500 affordable homes lost in just one year across just eleven councils.

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Since then, the idea that developers need to cut affordable homes from schemes to make them profitable has become even less credible. The top developers … Read more

The high cost of viability assessments: 2,500 affordable homes lost in just one year

Over the last year, we’ve blogged many times about viability assessments, their role in cutting affordable homes, and the lack of transparency around how developers use them.

New research from Shelter shines a light on just how much damage this legal loophole is doing. Eleven councils covering nine English cities lost 2,500 affordable homes in just one year on schemes where developers used viability assessments. That’s equivalent to a 79% cut in desperately needed affordable homes to … Read more

Hundreds of affordable homes have been lost in Kensington and Chelsea: it’s time to shut the door on abuse of the viability process

Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower the challenge of finding new homes for survivors has been thrown into the spotlight. A challenge that is exacerbated by the simple fact that in Kensington and Chelsea, as in areas across the country, there exists a huge shortage of affordable homes.

One reason for this is something regular readers of our blog will recognise: viability assessments.

Today we’ve released some new stats showing just how startling the problem in Kensington and Chelsea actually … Read more

Why are Grenfell survivors still living in hotels? The curious case of 100 West Cromwell Road

It’s now more than two months on from the Grenfell Tower fire, and many of those who survived this terrible event are still living in hotels, traumatised and without the basic comforts of home. Many survivors need time to grieve and recover before they can start to think about a permanent new place to live. But there’s no doubt that Kensington and Chelsea Council’s progress on identifying suitable accommodation, both temporary and permanent, has been far too slow for survivors.… Read more

The Mayor is giving us a new window into viability but we still need action at all levels

Last week, through the case of Hornsey Town Hall, we highlighted once again how a lack of transparency for viability assessments is contributing to the loss of affordable homes across England.

In London, however, the Mayor is listening and progress is being made in the form of a new piece of supplementary planning guidance (SPG).

This guidance – Homes for Londoners Affordable Housing and Viability Supplementary Planning Guidance 2017 – seeks to increase transparency around viability and increase the … Read more

Viability and transparency – unless we [REDACTED] how can we expect [REDACTED] to trust [REDACTED]

Regular readers of our blog – or followers of our work on housing supply – will have repeatedly heard our calls for increased transparency within housebuilding. One particular area where this is vital is when it comes to the murky world of viability assessments.

These assessments are used to reduce the affordable housing provision and other community contributions that a developer has to make on a scheme.

Recently we saw (and wrote about) a particularly egregious example of this in … Read more

Developers cannot be allowed to keep breaking their promises on affordable housing

In the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, the priority is to find secure, affordable homes for survivors in their community, and make sure they have all the support they need to move forward with their lives. It is encouraging to see homes starting to come forward, with 68 affordable homes in Kensington allocated for survivors so far.

But these are not additional homes. They are pre-existing affordable blocks fast-tracked and reserved for Grenfell families. And so there is a broader … Read more