In advance of the publication of the updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – expected to be launched next week – the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) and the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) are calling on government to clarify and strengthen its commitment to delivering affordable housing by amending the definition of affordable housing and the viability test.
For the past four years councils across England have highlighted the negative impact of the viability test on their ability to secure affordable housing.
In a new research study by the TCPA and APSE, due for publication in May, 60% of councils said the viability test had hindered their ability to secure affordable housing in their local areas.
Around one in 10 councils said the viability test helped with the provision of affordable housing and 29% didn’t know.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA, said: “There is no doubt that the current planning framework has deprioritised vital policy on affordable housing, climate change, good design and social equity, each of which are essential for building quality places.
“A key factor which led to this outcome was the introduction of viability testing, which places the needs of developers and land owners above the wider-public interest.
“The test has spawned a wasteful and costly industry for all parties which has had the net effect of dramatically reducing the delivery of affordable housing.
“The publication of the updated NPPF is a key opportunity for the government to set a new direction for planning, starting with rebalancing the viability test so councils can secure the affordable housing their communities need.”
Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, said: “Our latest research reveals that 98% of councils have identified the need for affordable homes in their local authorities as severe or moderate.
“Alongside financial freedoms, councils need a planning system that enables them to deliver more genuinely affordable homes.
“The government should ensure that the definition of an affordable homes set out in the new NPPF is based on a measure of income and not pegged to an arbitrary proportion of market price.”