Policy H/AH: Affordable housing

DRAFT version for various committee meetings.

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What will this policy do?

This policy will set out how affordable housing will be delivered, by specifying the size of developments on which affordable homes will be provided and setting out the types of affordable housing required to address identified needs.

Proposed policy direction

On sites of 10 or more dwellings 40% of new homes will be required to be affordable, except where: there can be a proportionate reduction as a result of vacant buildings being re-used or re-developed (as set out in national planning policy), the development is solely for Build to Rent (see H/BR for the requirements relating to these developments), the development is for some types of specialist accommodation that fall within Use Class C2, or the development is solely for residential caravans (see H/RC and H/GT for the requirements relating to these developments).

Affordable homes should be provided on-site except for in the circumstances set out in paragraph 63 of the NPPF 2021.

Mixed tenure developments that include Build to Rent homes should make up any shortfall in affordable homes within the Build to Rent element on the remainder of the development, so that overall the development delivers 40% affordable homes. 

The affordable housing tenures provided should include the requirements as set out in national planning policy and guidance – the first at least 25% of the affordable homes on the development to be First Homes, with at least 10% of all new homes on the development to be provided as affordable home ownership products.

The plan will set out the proportion of the different affordable housing tenures for the remaining up to 75% of the affordable homes (after the at least 25% First Homes have been accounted for). This will take into account the issues of affordability experienced in Greater Cambridge and also viability, but should include an element of social rent homes in recognition that the Councils have been identified by the Government as areas of high affordability pressure.

Affordable rents should be set having regard to the Greater Cambridge Housing Strategy Annexe 11: Setting of Affordable Rents (Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, June 2021) or a successor document.

Affordable housing for rent homes should be designed to accommodate different family compositions, with the bedspaces per dwelling guided by the recommendations set out in the Greater Cambridge Housing Strategy Annexe 5: Summary of Requirements for Development of New Homes (Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, April 2019) or a successor document.

Affordable homes must be designed to be indiscernible from market homes, and affordable homes should be distributed throughout the site in small groups or clusters, in accordance with the guidance provided in the Greater Cambridge Housing Strategy Annexe 10: Clustering and Distribution of Affordable Housing (Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, June 2021) or a successor document.

Local Lettings Plans will be required, where appropriate to help achieve mixed and balanced communities or to prioritise housing such as for local workers or for specific groups of people.

Applicants will be encouraged to work collaboratively with a Registered Provider, the relevant Councils housing team, and the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning service, to discuss the affordable housing provision and affordable tenures for a new development ahead of the submission of a planning application.

Viability will be considered as set out in the approach included in paragraph 58 of the NPPF 2021. The Greater Cambridge Local Plan will be subject to a viability assessment at each stage of plan making, including a whole plan viability assessment that will accompany the draft plan and be updated at subsequent stages of plan making. Current evidence indicates that securing 40% affordable homes is deliverable across Greater Cambridge taking account of other development costs assumed so far. The deliverability and viability of securing 40% affordable homes on all major developments across Greater Cambridge will be kept under review as the preparation of the Local Plan progresses.

Why is this policy needed?

National planning policy requires the tenure of homes needed for different groups in the community, including those requiring affordable homes, to be assessed and that the results of that assessment be reflected in planning policies. The Local Plan therefore needs to set out how the Councils will secure affordable homes on new developments to address the identified need. National planning policy expects affordable housing to be provided on site, and only allows affordable homes to be sought on developments of 10 dwellings or more.

What consultation have we done on this issue?

Responses to the First Conversation highlighted the need to create balanced and integrated communities by providing a mix of housing types, sizes and tenures. There was support for prioritising the delivery of affordable housing and including a challenging target for affordable housing, due to the shortfall of affordable housing in Greater Cambridge. Respondents highlighted a particular need for social rent housing / council housing, and affordable housing for local workers that support the Greater Cambridge economy. Viability was highlighted as an important consideration.

What alternatives did we consider?

1. Not including an affordable housing policy - Not considered a reasonable alternative as without a policy there is a risk that the level or tenure of affordable housing provided on new developments would not meet the needs of the area.

2. Seeking a higher percentage of affordable homes on new developments - This is not the preferred approach, as a higher percentage would impact on viability and delivery of sites.

3. Seeking a lower percentage of affordable homes on new developments - This is not the preferred approach, as the Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk Housing Needs of Specific Groups study (2021) recommends that the local authorities should continue to seek as much affordable housing delivery as viability allows.

4. Continuing the adopted Cambridge Local Plan approach of seeking 25% affordable homes on sites of 10-14 dwellings and 40% affordable homes on sites of 15 dwellings or more - This is not the preferred approach, as the Cambridgeshire and West Suffolk Housing Needs of Specific Groups study (2021) recommends that the local authorities should seek as much affordable housing delivery as viability allows and the Greater Cambridge Local Plan Viability Study and Assessment Interim Report (2021) indicates that securing 40% affordable homes on major developments is deliverable across Greater Cambridge.

Supporting evidence studies and topic papers

Existing policies in adopted 2018 Local Plans

South Cambridgeshire Local Plan 2018

Policy H/10: Affordable Housing

Cambridge Local Plan 2018

Policy 45: Affordable housing and dwelling mix

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