Affordable Housing - be flexible

08 April 2021

Optimising across sites?

National Planning Policy in England expects affordable housing to be provided on-site in the first instance, but also states that off-site provision is acceptable where it can be robustly justified and contributes to mixed and balanced communities.

Lichfields have produced an interesting analysis of the benefits of using off-site provision of affordable housing, and the disbenefits.

In England, circa 50% of Local Plans identified that off-site affordable housing contributions were only considered acceptable in “exceptional circumstances” or “exceptionally”, suggesting a higher threshold must be met than that set out in national policy. 

The Guildford Local Plan states that

Affordable housing contributions may be provided off-site, or by payment in lieu where the Council agrees that on site provision and management would be impractical due to size and / or location of the development. Off-site provision or payment in lieu is expected to enable the same amount of additional affordable housing as would have been delivered on site. The agreed off-site provision must be completed before 50% of the market homes are occupied unless otherwise agreed by the Council.

Benefits identified by Lichfields research with off-site affordable housing delivery included: delivering a larger number of affordable units off-site compared to on-site, for example in authorities with a wide range of land and property values.  Off-site provision also enabled local authorities to deliver the right type of homes in the right locations.

The downsides included issues with overconcentration of affordable housing in particular locations creating market imbalances and delays with funding flows.

The Guildford Local Plan has proposed allocations of affordable housing in most of the Local Plan sites.  The lesson from this report is that there are opportunities to optimise affordable housing provision between sites. 



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