Briefing: Viable villages
For decades, England hasn’t built enough genuinely affordable homes in rural or urban areas. Following cuts to capital grant and financial restrictions on councils, we now rely on private developers to deliver a large share of new affordable homes through the Section 106 system. But since 2012, national planning rules have blunted this tool by enabling the widespread use and abuse of viability assessments.
Last year, Shelter’s research showed how much-needed affordable homes are slipping through the viability loophole in cities across the country. New research from Shelter and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) shows that the problem is just as bad in the countryside. The government has made clear its intention to improve the current viability system. Shelter and CPRE are now calling on the government to use its upcoming re-write of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to close the viability loophole once and for all, creating a new viability system that is fair, limited and transparent.
1. Fair: The government should produce new standards on how viability assessments must be completed, ensuring that the price paid for land reflects affordable housing and other policy requirements. The rules should protect landowners’ and developers’ right to ‘a return’ – not ‘competitive returns’
2. Limited: Viability assessments should not be used to manage normal market risks. The government should produce new rules on the limited, exceptional circumstances in which they can be used.
3. Transparent: Appraisals should be published and open to public scrutiny, with results and supporting documents available online in a standardised, accessible format.