Charles Solomon, Viability, GLA
Valerie Conway, David Lock Associates
1. The Mayor stated his determination to make more homes affordable to more Londoners. He is committed to a long-term strategic target for half of all new homes built to be genuinely affordable for lower to middle income earners.
2. Affordable Housing and Viability Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) helps deliver more affordable homes through the planning system. It provides guidance on how affordable housing policies in the existing London Plan can be most effective; aiming to embed the requirement for affordable housing into land values and make the viability process more consistent and transparent.
3. The carrot and stick approach works. The ‘Threshold’ approach in the SPG offers developers a Fast Track route that bypasses viability assessments if they commit to 35% on-site affordable housing. Offering achievable goals and a fast-track scheme for developers can shift the conversation away from ‘how few affordable homes can we get away with’ to a win-win situation for all.
4. We should ask more questions. No site or set of variables are the same, and building costs can fluctuate by 30% over 6 months due to economic uncertainty (Brexit), material availability and labour costs. Developer risk should be appropriately accounted for in viability schemes, but we need to better interrogate cost breakdowns to ensure fair outcomes for everyone.
5. Viability is an act of negotiation and local boroughs have lots of bargaining chips. It is useful to understand the developer’s perspective so you can negotiate a deal that is beneficial for everyone. In the spirit of greater transparency outlined in the SPG, the GLA and local boroughs can also benefit from working together and sharing experiences around costing and outcomes.