New developments of up to 50 homes may no longer have to provide any affordable housing under proposed changes to government planning rules.
Hours after the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) released an 80-page document proposing to reform the whole system, a second major consultation appeared online detailing plans for “shorter-term” changes to the existing rules.
Current regulations include a small sites threshold dictating that developments with 10 or more homes (or covering more than 0.5 hectares) must contribute affordable housing.
Proposed guidelines could increase this five-fold, with the consultation document suggesting that small development sites with up to 40 or 50 homes (or up to 2.5 hectares, around the same area covered by three standard football pitches) would not need to provide a single affordable dwelling.
The government justifies this temporary change by saying it will boost building and support the construction industry in the wake of lockdown and throughout the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
According to government statistics, there were 16% more builder and developer insolvencies in 2019 than in 2018 – the vast majority of which were small and medium enterprises, a situation exacerbated by coronavirus.
The proposals are expected to remain in place for eighteen months, but there are fears they could be extended, leaving many areas – particularly overcrowded cities such as London which is primarily focused on small site developments – without the assurance of affordable housing for years to come.
The consultation was published almost in parallel with the Planning for the Future white paper, which repeatedly states the importance of maintaining and improving levels of affordable housing.
The document states that if the small sites threshold is cut to 40 units, the government would expect to see a reduction of between 7% and 14% of section 106 affordable housing delivery over a single year, assuming overall...