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Researchers call for golden triangle to ease affordable housing burden

students at UEL

A new study co-authored by an academic at the University of East London argues that agreements between local planning authorities and housing developers are failing to ensure enough affordable homes are built each year.  

“Rethinking Planning Obligations: Balancing Housing Numbers and Affordability” is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and authored by a team of academics from Oxford Brookes University and Dr Penny Bernstock from the University of East London.

Planning obligations, also known as Section 106 agreements, are secured between local councils and developers during the granting of planning permission. The research found that the number of homes provided nationally through S106 halved between 2006/07 and 2013/14 from 32,000 (65 per cent of all affordable homes) to 16,193 homes (37 per cent of all affordable homes).

Given the estimated need of 83,000 homes per year in the social rented sector, the level of unmet need is significant.

The report revealed that volatile housing markets and changes to the planning system, such as revised definitions of affordability in planning legislation and the increased use of mechanisms to appraise the financial viability of housing schemes, have contributed to this decline.

Six case studies also revealed a variety of alternative mechanisms are being used to provide affordable homes such as community land trusts and direct local authority investment, but these alone can't fill the gap.

Study co-author Dr Penny Bernstock said that S106 agreements continued to be an important mechanism for delivering affordable housing, though it varied across the case studies.

“It’s important that local authorities continue to maximise affordable housing through the planning system. However, this alone will not resolve the affordable housing crisis,” said Penny.

The report concludes with recommendations to increase provision through strengthening the planning system and boosting alternatives.

The report can be read here.