Lewis: councils will negotiate mix of affordable rented and starter homes

The planning minister has said that, while it is the government's intention for all 'reasonably-sized' schemes to include a proportion of Starter Homes for first-time buyers, it will be for councils to negotiate with developers the mix of affordable homes for rent and Starter Homes contained within section 106 deals.

Brandon Lewis: affordable homes do not need to be limited to affordable homes for rent
Brandon Lewis: affordable homes do not need to be limited to affordable homes for rent

Speaking yesterday at a communities and local government select committee session, Brandon Lewis told MPs that, under provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill, councils would still be able to include affordable homes for rent in section 106 agreements.

The minister was quizzed by committee members on measures in the Housing and Planning Bill to promote the delivery of discounted Starter Homes, including a new duty for local planning authorities to ensure that Starter Homes are delivered on "all reasonably-sized sites".

Provisions contained in the bill would mean that local planning authorities would only be able to grant planning permission for certain residential developments if specified requirements - to be set out in regulations - relating to Starter Homes are met.

The bill would enable the secretary of state to require that, in relation to applications for residential developments above a certain size, there must be a planning obligation securing a certain proportion of Starter Homes on the site, according to explanatory notes.

Lewis told the committee that the government is "very clear that an affordable home does not need to be limited to an affordable home for rent".

But the minister added that the mix of tenures agreed in a section 106 deal would remain subject to negotiation between developers and town halls.

He said: "I think we’ll see a continuation of the current situation where … it’s a negotiation between the developer and the local authority. What we are saying is that on reasonably-sized sites we want to see Starter Homes delivered. How that is done and what mixes of tenures … will continue to be a negotiation between the developer and the local authority."

Lewis added that in establishing the mix of tenures in the planning obligation, a local planning authority would need to "have regard to national policy and we are very clear that we think Starter Homes are a priority … but ultimately that is going to be a matter for a local authority to negotiate with a developer."

Prime Minister David Cameron told the Conservative Party conference last month that in a "dramatic shift" in policy, "those old rules which said to developers, 'You can build on this site, but only if you build affordable homes for rent', we're replacing them with new rules. You can build here, and those affordable homes can be available to buy."

Lewis also told the select committee that the Department for Communities and Local Government would "not necessarily" write plans itself in cases where no local plans have been produced by early 2017. The government has previously said that in such instances it will "intervene to arrange for the plan to be written, in consultation with local people, to accelerate production".

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