17 October 2018
The recently published guidance on Build to Rent is a welcome addition to the National Planning Policy Guidance (the ‘Guidance’), supporting the National Planning Policy Framework (the ‘Framework’) which now contains a specific definition in the glossary. Build to Rent has long been neglected within the planning system as a means of addressing housing supply as well as an investment type which is attractive to institutions.
In terms of affordability the Framework exempts Build to Rent from the 10% requirement for “affordable home ownership”, which is logical given that it is inherently not home ownership. However, the Guidance then seeks for 20% of the Build to Rent units to be discounted rent, so there is still the requirement for councils to consider this when formulating policy. With many councils having policy requirements beyond both figures this distinction may not be apparent in practice.
The guidance within the Affordable Housing section of the guidance details how flexibility can be applied to the affordable housing offer, and it identifies the proportion of discounted units and the level of discount being variables, as well as noting that time can be a further variable. Although this is not discussed within the Scheme Management section of the advice there may be potential for overlap: tenancy length and minimum unit standards are discussed and could offer further variables which could be used by developers and councils, even if the advice is not specifically suggesting this.
Although going below the minimum unit standards would be controversial in London (where they are included in London Plan policy as opposed to being optional national guidance), elsewhere there may be more potential to explore how such greater flexibility can assist developers and Councils to deliver more bespoke products for particular local markets. If councils are amenable to this broader interpretation of the Guidance, then it could be a very positive thing.
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