Investigating viability

I was at an event hosted in the House of Commons and organised by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism last night on the effect of the current viability regime on the supply of affordable housing.  The Committee Room was pretty packed.  My takeaways may not be surprising.  There seems to be a consensus (amongst the audience at least)  on a number of points

1   Transparency and public scrutiny should be the norm.

2  The current guidance on producing viability models is inadequate.  Better guidance from a trusted, independent body is needed.

3   Where developers are arguing for reduced affordable housing provision on the grounds of viability, an overage or clawback provision should be standard practice if developers make windfall profits.

It’s quite common for land owners to sell land with overage provisions.  For example, a provision might be that if the developers sells the space for more that £x per square metre, the additional amount is split 50:50 between developer and the land owner.  It seems sensible for local planning  authorities to do the same if developers claim that they can’t afford to be policy compliant.

Another takeaway was that local authority planners may start to laugh in the face of  developers who say things like  “10% of something is better than 40% of nothing”.

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