HOUSING | Affordable Housing

4.3 AFFORDABLE HOUSING

4.3.1    The issue raised most frequently in public consultations with regard to housing was that of affordability. The Uttlesford District Council Housing Strategy 2016-21 states that the average Uttlesford house price is 18 times the average Uttlesford income, which is £24,575. 60% of Uttlesford residents earn below £34,000pa and 40% earn below £25,000. [1]

4.3.2    New build homes sell for a premium; a new build house costs on average £573,000 in Uttlesford, much higher than a new build house in the wider region which costs around £357,800. [2]

4.3.3    The eLP notes para 4.3 page 78, “because of high house prices there are some members of the population, particularly younger people and those on low to modest incomes, unable to access the housing market. High housing costs have also led to a growing number of households who do not necessarily require subsidised affordable housing, but due to inflated house prices, are financially restricted from entering the private housing market.”

4.3.4    Lack of supply of smaller homes has a high cost to the public purse in the form of need for social housing and housing allowance.

4.3.5    ‘Affordable housing’ has different meanings to different audiences. In the main, “affordable housing’ is understood by the general public as being the type of housing that isn’t too expensive for the average person to live in.

4.3.6    However, in strict planning terminology, ‘affordable housing’ is a precise description for housing which is subsidised and either rented or owed, and provided to eligible households. There is a precise way of calculating prices for affordable housing; as a broad-brush description it is housing that is 20% below open market prices. The full definition is set out in the NPPF [3]. Information on what qualifies a household as eligible is available on the Uttlesford District Council website [4].

4.3.7    The SWNP uses the strict planning terminology definition of ‘affordable housing’, because this is a quantifiable measure and the only legally workable definition which can be used in a neighbourhood plan. Nonetheless, it recognises that even the 20% discount on market rates still places the prices above the reach of many.

4.3.8    Paragraph 4.18 of the eLP sets out the reasoning and evidence for the requirement for affordable housing to be 40%, as follows: The 2017 SHMA identified that the affordable housing component of the District’s total housing need is 19.5%. In the light of national policy which does not permit affordable housing contributions from sites of 10 units or less, it is considered appropriate to require developments of 11 dwellings or more to provide 40% of the total number of dwellings as affordable dwellings to ensure that the affordable housing need is met.” The SWNP adopts this reasoning and evidence.

4.3.9    Developments of 11+ homes have to provide 40% of them in the form of affordable housing. 70% of these are Affordable Rent and 30% are Shared Ownership. Affordable Rent housing is subject to the Right to Buy rules and can be transferred to the open market after only three years from completion.

4.3.10    The Community Land Trust model is gaining traction nationally as a method of safeguarding in perpetuity homes which have the same purpose as the traditional affordable rent housing, without the risk of transfer to the open market.

4.3.11  If the disparity between what is needed and can be afforded locally, and what has more recently been built is not addressed, there is a very real risk that Saffron Walden will become a dormitory town. This would further increase both inward and outward commuting, thus worsening air quality, and be damaging to the overall social structure and community feel that the town currently enjoys and which makes it so attractive in the first place.

[1]  Source: Uttlesford District Council Housing Strategy 2016-21

[2]  Source data: Uttlesford Housing Market Report – June 2018 (Q1)

[3]  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-planning-policy-framework–2

[4]  https://www.uttlesford.gov.uk/housing

POLICY SW5 AFFORDABLE HOUSING

  1. Developments on sites which provide for 11 dwellings or more, or residential floorspace of more than 1,000 sq. m (combined gross internal area), will be required to provide 40% of the total number of dwellings as affordable dwellings on the application site and as an integral part of the development.
  2. In exceptional circumstances, where this cannot be achieved, off-site provision and/ or commuted payments in lieu of on-site provision may be supported where this would offer an equivalent or enhanced provision of affordable housing.
  3. Affordable housing units will be distributed through the development in appropriately sized, non-contiguous clusters. The tenure mix of affordable housing should reflect the most up to date local housing need as defined by the planning authority.
  4. To prevent the loss of affordable housing to the general housing market, Community Land Trusts are the preferred delivery model for affordable housing.
  5. Sites may not be artificially subdivided. Where sites are sub-divided, each subdivision or smaller development will contribute proportionally towards achieving the amount of affordable housing which would have been appropriate on the whole or larger site.
  6. Residential proposals which do not meet the Neighbourhood Plan’s affordable housing requirement of 40% will only be supported if the proposals are justified by an open book assessment of viability.
  7. Where this policy makes the scheme unviable, careful consideration will be given to the overall scheme, and the scheme should be refused unless it strongly meets all the other objectives in the SWNP.
  8. Should the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) be introduced during the timespan of the SWNP, CIL should not be levied on affordable housing or residential care homes.

This policy supports the Neighbourhood Plan Objectives 1,2,3,5

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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.

POLICIES

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