Under Bridge Manchester C.JoeGardner
Developers in Manchester may have to pay more in contributions towards affordable housing under proposed planning reforms. Credit: Place North West

Jenrick: planning reform will boost affordable housing provision 

Dan Whelan

The Secretary of State said that changes to policy would mean developers will have “no way to wriggle out of” affordable housing obligations. 

Robert Jenrick MP spoke about the government’s proposed planning reforms at a keynote speech on the final day of the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Housing 2021 conference in Manchester.

Under the new proposals, Section 106 agreements would be scrapped and replaced with a single, consolidated levy. 

This has proved controversial and some local authorities are worried that without S106 payments – developer contributions intended to mitigate against certain impacts on existing communities – funds for providing certain services and improvements will dry up. 

However, Jenrick moved to allay those fears, claiming that reverting to a single infrastructure levy would give councils more control over developer contributions. 

“This [levy] places all of the cards in the hands of the council,” he said. “They can set [the levy] up at the same level of funding they’re receiving today through S106 and CIL, or higher.” 

Jenrick also suggested that developers in cities like Manchester and London might have to pay more in the future. 

“In areas of higher land values, I suspect councils will go higher, perhaps significantly higher…ensuring that money goes to affordable housing, and wider investments in infrastructure and the public good.” 

He added that the consolidated levy would provide additional transparency for all parties in the planning process and “end the debate on viability”. 

“In all bar the most exceptional circumstances, the most complex sites, it would be very clear what the developer has to pay, there will be no way to wriggle out of it,” he said. 

Under the current system, S106 agreements can be paid in lieu of providing affordable housing if the developer claims it would make a scheme unviable – developers then pay contributions so that councils can provide affordable housing elsewhere. 

However, some commentators criticise those developers that claim providing affordable housing within their schemes would make them unviable, insisting they should adhere to the planning policies set out by each council.

Criticism is also levelled at local authorities for not enforcing their own policies that require developments to include a certain level of affordable housing. 

In Manchester, for example, that level is 20% but often developers building schemes in the city centre end up providing no affordable housing, falling back instead on S106 agreements. 

Jenrick said councils should take a “harder line” on this but fell short of criticising developers accused for hiding behind the viability argument. 

“New development is essential to funding affordable housing,” he said. 

“Around half of the affordable housing in this country is funded through developers’ contributions. So it is those newest developments of all kinds, including the most luxurious, that are providing the funding that ultimately pays for the new affordable housing.” 

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Affordable housing is not affordable.

By Darren Born Bred.

Affordable housing is the sign of a weak economy. Manchester needs to sort its doughnut ring out and legislate against slum landlords, who have turned places like Moston and Gorton into ghettoes, riddled with social problems . There are decent family sized houses in areas like that falling down which are more than affordable , whilst unscrupulous people line their pockets with Taxpayers money. The city centre should be aspirational.

By Elephant

I think that’s harsh from Elephant, those areas have always been very hard pressed. The development of the doughnut feels really fundamental, not sure how fully inclusive it will ever be without material government support to create not just ‘affordable’, but also social housing at scale, otherwise we may find ourselves having another gentrification conversation in 10 years time.

By Rich X

Easy to say. Let’s see it in reality. Until we get to that point it is right to remain sceptical. Notwithstanding the ongoing failure of the government to develop a working relationship with the truth, no-one with a functioning brain cell can fail to have noticed the importance of the link between large-scale housebuilders and the coffers of the party in power.

By OldTom

A levy for affordable housing is a great idea. My only concern is that the levy should be set by a panel of independant, accredited valuers on a regional basis, otherwise it may end up with long delays or stalemates and won’t deliver any houses, where the balance is massively swayed beyond reasonableness and commercial sensitivity.

By ADarbyshire

Independent of who? I think we all know how this works in reality at the moment. The government should really be demanding a minimum percent of onsite provision, of a type relevant to the needs of the local area, to be established through the planning process (for example, no more top-down First Homes nonsense – it might be the right thing in some places, but it’s not the the right thing everywhere so national government shouldn’t be dictating that sort of detail). Levy’s suggest money to spend elsewhere. This is not going to solve the problem. We’ll see though, as I say.

By OldTom

It’s not affordable housing, it’s a government scam

By Lindi161

Hardly “levelling up” is it? Rich areas get to levy more and have better services. Poor areas get whatever development comes their way and likely can’t charge anything but the minimum.

Formula for levies should be set centrally, and redistributed from rich to poorer areas. What’s the point of being in a country if you’re permanently locked out of the benefits of taxation by design?

By Jeff

Gorton and Moston aren’t even affordable anymore. Look at the ridiculous house prices.

By Anonymous