Affordable Housing

The Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Document was adopted in November 2011 and supports Core Strategy Policy PCS 6: Affordable Housing, and aims to provide greater certainty and clarity to the delivery of affordable housing. The SPD was subject to two rounds of public consultation and the responses received helped to shape the final SPD, including the introduction of a tariff approach to contributions for schemes of 6 to 10 units. The tariff table is available in Appendix C of the SPD and should be read in conjunction with the Submarket Area Map.

Update on Affordable Housing Policy and Applying the Vacant Building Credit

In November 2014, amendments to Planning Practice Guidance introduced changes to the way that affordable housing contributions should be sought from development. Essentially, these changes meant that the Local Planning Authority would no longer seek affordable housing or other tariff style contributions on or off site for affordable housing provision from developments of 10 units or less, and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of no more than 1,000sqm.

Up until this change, Policy PCS06 of the Core Strategy required an assessment of the viability of a site for 6 or more residential properties to establish whether a redevelopment proposal was viable and could make provision for affordable housing either on or off site.

Following a legal challenge by West Berkshire Council and Reading Borough Council, the changes were quashed (July 2015), by a High Court ruling that the planning policy to exempt small developments from affordable housing contributions and the vacant building credit were unlawful. The Department for Communities and Local Government were subsequently granted permission to appeal.

On the 11 May 2016, the appeal was allowed and the original changes reinstated in Planning Policy Guidance. As a consequence, Core Strategy policy PCS06 will no longer be applicable for sites of 10 units or less, and which have a maximum combined gross floor space of no more than 1,000m2.

Please note that Poole is currently reviewing its Local Plan and as a consequence existing policy PCS 6: Affordable Housing, could change. How the council applies the national guidance in this regard may also change as a result of the Local Plan review.

Vacant Building Credit

In addition, the NPPG has now introduced the Vacant Building Credit. Essentially Vacant Building Credit is given where a vacant building is brought back into any lawful use, or is demolished to be replaced by a new building. The developer is offered a financial credit equivalent to the existing gross floor space of relevant vacant buildings when the Local Planning Authority calculates any affordable housing contribution sought. Affordable housing contributions would be required for any increase in floor space.

There is currently a lack of clarity on how the Vacant Building Credit will be calculated. Planning applications are not always made by reference to the floor space calculations since the number of planning units may be more relevant. In future, such planning applications will need to include the calculation of gross floor space in order to apply the offset or credit.

The driver behind the policy change is the government’s wish to reduce the obstacles on developers bringing vacant, under-used or brown field sites back into occupation. Residents and Members may have reservations about a policy which seems to reduce the contributions available for affordable housing, nevertheless, it is advised that as part of the NPPG, the council must pay due regard to the Vacant Building Credit and apply it to relevant planning applications.

At this stage, there is little guidance available as to how the Vacant Building Credit should be applied and because of its recent introduction there are no determined planning appeals or court decisions that have been found which give any steer on this.

At present affordable housing contributions are calculated by reference to complex viability assessments which are detailed and exhaustive and include reliance on external opinion provided by the District Valuer as to land values, etc. As such, Vacant Building Credit scenarios include:

  • where a vacant building is brought into residential use, providing the use has not been abandoned, and the gross floor space does not exceed that of the building previously, then no affordable housing contribution will be payable, irrespective of the increase in residential units
  • where the gross floor space exceeds that of the building previously, for example where additional floors, accommodation, or units are provided on the site, or where the building is demolished and replaced, a credit should be given in the amount of the previously existing floor space. If the floor space in the new development does not exceed that in the previous building, then no contribution is payable
  • where there is an overall increase in floor space then a credit is given for the previously existing floor space and deducted from the overall affordable housing contribution calculation

The ways that either an on/off site provision or a financial contribution shall be calculated are as follows:

Example of Affordable Housing secured on or off site
 Building  Gross Internal Area (m2 )  M2 Increase? % Increase in floor space Number of residential flats (a) 40% of Affordable Housing Units? Affordable Housing required 
 Existing  800           
 Proposed  2,400 (b)  1,600 (a)  66.6% (c)  11 (d)  4.4 (e)  2.93 flats

To establish the contribution, divide (a) by (b) to establish (c). Then multiply the number of residential units (d) by 40% to establish (e). Multiply (c) by (e) so the requirement would be 2 residential units on or off site. The remaining 0.93 will be sought as a financial contribution calculated as an equivalent value of on site provision.

As an example: if the Open Market Value of a flat is £160,000 a housing provider could afford to pay approx. 55% of the OMV to provide the unit as affordable, so the cost of the developers contribution for 1 residential unit would be £160,000 multiplied by 45% = £72,000 multiplied by 0.93 would be £66,960.

Example of Affordable Housing Contribution
 Building Gross Internal Area (m2) m2 Increase? % Increase in floor space Number of Residential Flats Tariff Table (Appendix C) Supplementary Planning Document £ sought?
 Existing 800          
 Proposed 2,400 (b) 1,600 (a) 66.6% (c) 11 £48 per m2 (d)  £78,800

To establish the contribution, divide (a) by (b) to establish (c). Then multiply (c) by (d). The rate varies depending on the type, location and seaward views from the proposed accommodation, so reference to Table C of the Affordable Housing SPD (adopted November 2011) will be required.

The council should apply the Vacant Building Credit in the simplest and most transparent way available. Until such time as further guidance or case law is available, the council should calculate the amount of affordable housing contributions required from the development as set out in our existing planning policy. The Vacant Building Credit should then be applied as a proportion of the overall floor space of the new development.

Contact details


01202 633321

Growth and Infrastructure
Civic Centre
BH15 2RU 

Page last updated: 18 July 2018
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