Policy D3: Affordable Housing
Any scheme for new residential development, or for conversions of existing sites, on sites where 10 or more homes will be provided, or the site has an area of 0.5 hectares or more, will be required to include 25% as affordable housing.
Affordable housing should be located on the proposed site. Where it can be justified by the developer, or it is considered by the local planning authority that it is the most appropriate course of action, off-site contributions in lieu of on-site provision will be accepted for affordable housing located within or adjacent to Our Neighbourhood.
4.209 If the percentage of affordable units is not a whole number then round to the nearest whole number as follows: if the number is followed by .5, .6, .7, .8, or .9, round the number up; if the number is followed by .0, .1, .2, .3, or .4, round the number down.
4.210 A House of Commons Briefing Paper (Wilson and Barton, 2018, p.5) looked at affordable housing and noted that “There is no all-encompassing statutory definition of affordable housing in England”. The NPPF defines affordable housing in Annex 2 covering social housing for rent and intermediate housing for sale or rent. There are proposed amendments to NPPF guidance on this topic with the overall premise that affordable is at least 20% below market rent or market value. The emerging County Durham Local Plan proposes, on the basis of evidence, that in Durham City the percentage should be 25% affordable provision.
4.211 Affordable housing in Our Neighbourhood is affected by a premium on the value of housing caused by three main factors: (i) the strength of the buy to rent market because of the large number of students as a percentage of the population; 53% in the 2011 census, now over 60% (see para. C.3); (ii) the high level of provision of new executive housing, and (iii) the large number of residential properties that are listed buildings or non-designated heritage assets. This means that 80% of market value is way beyond most people’s income levels. To achieve more realistically affordable houses to revitalise Our Neighbourhood requires more creative mechanisms than dependence on the market. For example: Durham County Council owns property in Our Neighbourhood that could be developed for realistically-affordable housing; Durham University could support its expansion by providing realistically-affordable housing for young academics starting out in the profession.
4.212 Affordable accommodation is also an issue for students. Durham Students’ Union (2018a,b) have been carrying out a campaign to address the cost of Durham University college accommodation. Though this does not include private PBSAs, many of these charge higher levels than the colleges. Durham University provides bursaries to assist qualifying students with their accommodation costs, but PBSAs do not provide any ‘affordable’ (at 80% of market rent) accommodation.
4.213 The Plan priority consultation (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2015) shows that family housing and affordable housing, for renting and for buying, are a particular need in Durham City and that appropriate provision is needed here for people starting out in the housing market, for families with children and for young professionals. The NPPF (para. 61) expects that such categories of need are recognised. Changes in law nationally tilt the provision from renting to owning and do not protect the affordable price in perpetuity. The Neighbourhood Plan seeks to keep both renting and buying as options. Provision can be made by new build or by conversions of former Houses in Multiple Occupation.
Next section: Policy D4: Building Housing to the Highest Standards