Fears rural homes shortage will be exacerbated by policy change

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The delivery of much-needed affordable housing in the countryside is threatened by planning changes proposed by the Government, the Rural Services Network has warned.

Under the proposals, which have been published as part of a consultation, developers would not be obliged to provide affordable housing as part of Section 106 agreements with local planning bodies on smaller new housing sites of 10 houses or less.

Andy Dean, the Network’s spokesman on housing issues, said: “Rural affordable homes are difficult to deliver for a variety of reasons and it is critical that existing routes to deliver such homes are not cut off.

“Introducing the threshold threatens to drastically reduce the provision of affordable homes in rural areas.”

A large proportion of the delivery of affordable housing in communities of less than 3,000 residents was through Section 106 sites that were 10 units or less, Mr Dean added. In the 2008/11 Affordable Housing Programme, 75 per cent of rural homes were built using this method, he said.

Rural communities face huge shortfalls in affordable housing, as The Yorkshire Post pointed out in its Rural Crisis series. The shortage sees many local people move away from communities they have always called home.

The North York Moors National Park Authority opposes the proposals.

Caroline Skelly, the Park’s planning policy officer, said: “The delivery of affordable housing in National Parks and other rural areas plays a significant role in ensuring that local communities remain sustainable.

“Although development is on a much smaller scale, the provision of half a dozen affordable houses can enable local people to remain in the communities they grew up in, ensuring the viability of local facilities.

“We feel that the Government’s proposals will undermine the North York Moors National Park Authority’s approach and will result in the delivery of unrestricted open market housing which will be very expensive, available as second homes and will simply exacerbate the high level of affordable housing needs in the area.”

Danielle Troop, housing adviser at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said the trick for local planning authorities will be for them to stipulate how many homes they expect to see delivered on a rural site and to specify the expected Section 106 affordable housing contribution in line with their adopted policies.

“The problems articulated by the Rural Services Network only really occurs where developers consistently build out nine units as a means to avoid the 10 unit trigger and the affordable housing contribution,” she said.

Explaining the proposals, a spokesman at the Department for Communities and Local Government said: We are clear that burdensome Section 106 agreements are a significant cost on small house builders, meaning less new homes are being built and making it more difficult to get onto the housing ladder.

“We are now carefully considering all responses to the consultation and any further steps will be announced in due course.”