Policy SC 5: Affordable Homes
- In residential developments affordable housing will be provided as follows:
- In developments of 15 or more dwellings (or 0.4 hectares) in the Principal Towns and Key Service Centres at least 30% of all units are to be affordable;
- In developments of 11 or more dwellings (or have a maximum combined gross floorspace of more than 1,000 sq.m) in Local Service Centres and all other locations at least 30% of all units are to be affordable;
- In future, where Cheshire East Council evidence, such as housing needs studies or housing market assessments, indicate a change in the borough’s housing need the above thresholds and percentage requirements may be varied;
- Units provided shall remain affordable for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision;
- The affordable homes provided must be of a tenure, size and type to help meet identified housing needs and contribute to the creation of mixed, balanced and inclusive communities where people can live independently longer;
- Affordable homes should be dispersed throughout the site, unless there are specific circumstances or benefits that would warrant a different approach;
- Market and affordable homes on sites should be indistinguishable and achieve the same high design quality;
- The council will seek to improve choice and increase supply of affordable homes to reflect that housing markets change over periods of time and therefore the products that are made available to help people access rented and other affordable housing need to change to meet these market conditions;
- In exceptional circumstances, where scheme viability may be affected, developers will be expected to provide viability assessments to demonstrate alternative affordable housing provision footnote 53. The developer will be required to submit an open book viability assessment. In such cases, the council will commission an independent review of the viability study, for which the developer will bear the cost. In cases where such alternative affordable housing provision is agreed there may be a requirement for the provision of 'overage' payments to be made. This will reflect the fact that the viability of a site will be agreed at a point in time and may need to be reviewed, at set point(s) in the future;
- Affordable housing is required to be provided on-site, however, in exceptional circumstances, where it can be proven that on-site delivery is not possible, as a first alternative, off-site provision of affordable housing will be accepted; as a second alternative a financial contribution may be accepted, where justified, in lieu of on-site provision.
- Affordable housing and tariff style contributions will not be sought from any development consisting only of the construction of a residential annex or extension to an existing home.
12.39 The National Planning Policy Framework states that where Local Authorities have identified that affordable housing is needed, they should 'set policies for meeting this need on site, unless off-site provision or a financial contribution of broadly equivalent value can be robustly justified and the agreed approach contributes to the objective of creating mixed and balanced communities. Such policies should be sufficiently flexible to take account of changing market conditions over time'.
12.40 'Affordable housing' and 'Affordable homes' are considered to be that as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework.
12.41 A community's need for an appropriate balance and mix of housing, including the provision of affordable housing, is recognised at national level as a material consideration in determining planning applications for housing development. Government policy seeks to create sustainable communities that offer a wide range of housing types and tenures and are socially inclusive.
12.42 The council is keen to enable people to live independently at all stages of their lives and to reduce cultures of dependency. The council is also keen to enable people to buy a home of their own and promote wider home ownership. It also encourages families to grow and move into homes that match their current and future aspirations. There needs to be a wider choice of housing that can support people when they are older and allow them to remain independent for as much of their life as possible. Affordable housing is a means of achieving these goals; it can support broader home ownership through initiatives such as housing designed specifically for first time buyers and can allow families to grow through fixed discount and shared ownership housing. Securing housing at the right price supports a flexible and dynamic labour market and enhances the wider growth agenda. Housing that meets the needs of older people will be increasingly important as longevity improves; the right kind of housing, bungalows or directly supported housing promotes independence and reduces the need to fall back on the care system. Consequently, a good range of housing that meets local needs is vital to the overall strategy.
12.43 Although the borough has a stock of good quality housing with relatively low vacancy rates, in many areas there is an imbalance in the type and tenure of available housing. There is a need to make sure that future housing development in Cheshire East helps to support economic growth by providing for a range of income groups. This includes housing for households seeking open market dwellings and those requiring affordable housing (including social rented, affordable rent, shared ownership housing, discounted housing for sale and increased diversity of options through intermediate tenures). Such an approach will help to maintain long-term community sustainability and enhance the quality of life for local residents.
12.44 The Housing Development Study shows that there is the objectively-assessed need for affordable housing for a minimum of 7,100 dwellings over the plan period, which equates to an average of 355 dwellings per year.
12.45 To help address housing need, the council will seek affordable housing from residential developments in accordance with the stated thresholds.
12.46 All development involving the provision of housing that meets the thresholds will be required to make provision for affordable housing, unless there are exceptional viability circumstances which make this impossible. Land values used in any viability assessments will be expected to take account of planning obligations.
12.47 The council will normally require the affordable housing to be delivered without public subsidy and provided on site. In exceptional circumstances and where it can be justified, as a first alternative, affordable housing will be accepted off-site; this must be on a site that is agreed with the Council as being in a suitable location, relative to the housing need to be met. In exceptional circumstances and where it can be justified, as a second alternative, a financial contribution will be accepted. Where a financial contribution is sought, the Council will seek to use a standard methodology which will be detailed in additional guidance and based on evidence such as the Strategic Housing Market Assessment, local housing needs surveys and other housing market studies.
12.48 The council will seek the balance of housing that best meets local needs and the characteristics of the site. Currently, this is 65% affordable (or social) rent housing and 35% intermediate affordable housing. The council may refine both the headline percentage, tenure split and any geographical variation as the plan progresses. Any future requirements will be determined through evidence such as the Strategic Housing Market Assessment and local housing needs surveys.
12.49 Affordable housing requirements must also be balanced with other requirements for transport infrastructure, community facilities, open space and sustainable construction. However, it should be stressed that the provision of affordable housing will be additional to any requirements outlined in the council's Charging Schedule under the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) - see Policy IN 2. Following the Written Ministerial Statement of the 28 November 2014 and subsequent updates to the Planning Practice Guidance there are specific circumstances where contributions for affordable housing and tariff style planning obligations (Section 106 planning obligations) should not be sought from small scale and self-build development as reflected in point 1 (ii) of Policy SC 5.
12.50 The Draft Core Strategy and CIL Viability assessment (2013) noted that greenfield residential development is generally viable at the current time at a 30% affordable housing requirement. The assessment acknowledges challenges, however, in respect of the viability of brownfield development in meeting the 30% requirement with particular issues around the urban area of Crewe. Point 7 of Policy SC 5 allows for the viability of schemes to be a key consideration in demonstrating an alternative affordable housing provision alongside an open book viability assessment, in order to consider schemes on a case by case basis.
12.51 In Crewe it may also be more appropriate to divert funding for affordable housing into provisions for the improvement of existing stock within the urban area, rather than the provision of new houses. This will not only make best use of available resources but have regeneration benefits as well.
12.52 Where viability assessments are submitted, to demonstrate that an alternative provision of affordable housing should be provided, they will be evaluated independently, such cost being borne by the developer. In cases where such alternative affordable housing provision is agreed, there may be a requirement for the provision of 'overage' payments to be made. As viability assessments are relevant to a particular point in time, this would be linked to reviews of the viability assessment, at certain points within the site's lifetime. Such a requirement will be related to the site's size; its characteristics; market conditions and other relevant factors.
12.53 Further explanation, regarding how this policy and Policy SC 6 'Rural Exceptions Housing for Local Needs' will operate, will be included in a Supplementary Planning Document on Affordable Housing (PDF, 642KB).
- Strategic Housing Market Assessment
- Local Housing Needs Surveys
- Cheshire East Housing Strategy
- The Housing Development Study.
(Footnote 53) Alternative affordable housing provision could include lower provision or provision of alternative affordable housing tenures.
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