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New affordable housing guidance introduced for developers

New guidance for developers and housebuilders working in the inner west and east parts of the city has been agreed by Bristol City Council’s Cabinet today (Tuesday 6 March) in a bid to help increase affordable housing in Bristol.

The Affordable Housing Practice Note has been devised as short-term guidance to developers to increase levels of affordable housing in their schemes. It does not represent new policy but is an interim measure until the Bristol Local Plan, which will set out how Bristol will develop over the next twenty years, is adopted.

Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “There’s an urgent need for more affordable housing in Bristol so we’ve been looking closely at what other areas facing similar problems are doing. Our research has shown that by temporarily reducing the thresholds and offering incentives to developers, we can boost the number of affordable homes that get built.”

The guidance introduces a ‘threshold approach’ to provide developers with a fast track route through planning if they are prepared to offer at least 20% affordable housing on sites in the  inner west east zones. This is on the on the basis that developers must start work on schemes within 18 months of planning consent.

The current requirement for affordable housing is set at 40% in certain areas, but this is often not met due to barriers such as apparent financial viability issues for developers. Between 2011 and 2015 the average rate of affordable homes built in the inner west part of the city, excluding 100% affordable home schemes, was just over 5% and 15% in the inner east areas.

The lower threshold approach has proven to be successful when introduced by the Greater London Authority.

Cllr Paul Smith continued: “It could seem counter intuitive to lower the threshold for affordable housing in order to get more built, but this approach has worked well elsewhere. At the heart of it is a commitment to working more closely, offering flexibility and speeding up the planning process for developers who will commit to the delivery of a minimum number of affordable homes.

“We want to see the 40% targets being met, but it always takes a long time to introduce new policies that offer a radical approach to housing delivery and because of that we are looking at ways we can make immediate changes. Before the Local Plan is adopted, we have an opportunity to accelerate the supply of affordable homes from current low levels.

“We have some ambitious housing targets and work is already underway on a new council housing scheme in Ashton Vale and major new mixed tenure housing schemes in Hengrove and Lockleaze.”

The new guidance also introduces greater flexibility in applying the council’s tenure requirements for affordable housing provided certain conditions are met. In such circumstances the council will accept 100% affordable rent, as an alternative to 77% Social Rented and 23% Intermediate affordable housing.

House builders, registered housing providers, and community led housing organisations have been consulted on the proposed change.

To view the practice note and related papers, please go to: https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/g2563/Public%20reports%20pack%2006th-Mar-2018%2016.00%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10