Opinion Former Video

Rural communities denied affordable housing as developers exploit loophole

This animation, from the CPRE, highlights that England hasn’t built enough genuinely affordable homes in rural or urban areas for decades. Following cuts to capital grant and financial restrictions on councils, we now rely on private developers to deliver a large share of new affordable homes through the Section 106 system. But since 2012, national planning rules have blunted this tool by enabling the widespread use and abuse of viability assessments.

Script

England is facing a housing crisis.

Thousands of people cannot afford to buy or rent somewhere to live.

This isn’t just a problem in big towns and cities.

There is a hidden crisis in rural areas, where fewer than one in ten homes are defined by the government as affordable.

While incomes tend to be lower in rural areas, the house prices are often higher than in towns and cities.

This makes it harder for young people and families to afford to live in the countryside.

Developers must commit to building affordable houses when they propose a new development.

But they are using a legal loophole to prioritise profit and back out of building the affordable homes people need.

This loophole is known as ‘the viability assessment’. 

If the assessment shows the developer’s profit will be less than 20 per cent, the developer can argue that they should be allowed to build fewer affordable homes.

The fewer affordable homes they have to build, the more they can sell at market prices.

This increases their profits, but is devastating for the people who cannot afford to pay market price.

The problem is particularly bad in rural areas.

Many local rural councils lack the capacity, resource and expertise to challenge developers’ viability assessments.

While far too often, the government sides with the developers, leaving rural communities at a loss.

The government must take action on viability assessments.

It’s time to hold developers to account.

It’s time to close the viability loophole.

It’s time to make sure rural communities get the affordable homes they need to help them thrive.

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