Much of the press coverage on David Cameron’s conference speech today focused on the proposed reform of planning rules, aimed at securing 200,000 homes for new buyers by the end of the parliament, and as trailed earlier this year.
The plan, we are told, is to move away from the requirement for developers to provide affordable homes for rent and towards the provision of affordable homes to buy. A move to help ‘Generation Rent’.
Leaving aside the arguments about just how affordable these homes would be to all but the nation’s top earners (with their prices being capped at £250k outside London and £450k in London), there is some confusion about just what sort of new rules we’ll be looking at and also whether this initiative will result in the building of more homes or just see stock being shifted from homes for rent to homes to buy (so that this becomes an issue over who owns the housing stock, rather than how much there is).
There is a train of thought which suggests that removing stringent requirements to provide affordable homes for rent will make sites more financially viable, but with viability arguments already playing a large part in s106 negotiations and developers succeeding in reducing (or in some cases removing) their affordable housing obligations, is the ‘starter homes to buy’ option sufficiently attractive?
It is worth remembering that the current definition of ‘affordable housing’ (found in the NPPF) already includes low cost homes, provided provisions are in place to retain those homes at an affordable price for future eligible households or for subsidies to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision. The current thinking on starter homes is that they will be tied to a cap of at least 80% less than market value for a period of 5 years, but beyond that they are at risk of being lost to the open market. Will we see this option added to the NPPF definition?
What will happen to the current guidance on Starter Homes on exception sites? Is that to be scrapped?
We'll be keeping our eye out for answers to these questions and repoting back in due course.