10-unit Affordable Housing Threshold Back on the Agenda
A recent judgment which gives way for more housebuilding on smaller sites and supports homes being built faster was hailed by the Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis this week. Mr Lewis said “Today’s judgment by the Court of Appeal restores common sense to the system, and ensures that those builders developing smaller sites – including self-builders - don’t face costs that could stop them from building any homes at all.”
The Court of Appeal handed down the government’s appeal against the judicial review judgement by West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council. This means affordable housing contributions will return to the threshold of developments of 10-units (or 1000sq.m floorspace) or more. A lower threshold would apply in designated rural areas, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty with developments of 5 units or less to be excluded from affordable housing levies and tariff based contributions. It also means the return of the vacant building credit in relation to offsetting the floorspace of existing buildings against affordable housing contributions.
Ministers criticised the challenge to the policy and legal action that was taken by West Berkshire District Council and Reading Borough Council as “a total waste of taxpayers’ money” and explained that smaller housebuilders make an important contribution to helping meeting the government’s key ambition of delivering one million new homes.
The small sites affordable housing contributions policy was introduced in November 2014 to help boost housing delivery and incentivise brownfield development. It introduced a national threshold of ten units or fewer (and a maximum combined gross floor space of no more than 1,000 square metres) beneath which affordable housing contributions should not be sought. The policy was introduced to tackle the disproportionate burden of developer contributions on small scale developers, custom and self-builders.
Larger sites have continued to be subject to affordable housing requirements. There have been significant policy changes since 2014 that are intended to speed up planning and housing delivery including the government’s commitment to deliver 200,000 starter homes by 2020 and further reforms to planning obligations and the community infrastructure levy.