The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)’s current definition of affordable housing includes social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, "provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market".
The current definition includes some low cost home ownership models such as shared ownership and shared equity, provided that they are subject to "in perpetuity" restrictions or that the subsidy is recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.
But a consultation on proposed changes to the NPPF, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), proposes that the national planning policy definition of affordable housing is amended "so that it encompasses a fuller range of products that can support people to access home ownership", and that some of these products may not be subject to "in perpetuity" restrictions.
"We propose that the definition will continue to include a range of affordable products for rent and for ownership for households whose needs are not met by the market," the document says. But it adds that "products that are analogous to low cost market housing or intermediate rent, such as discount market sales or innovative rent to buy housing" will also be included in the amended definition.
"Some of these products may not be subject to ‘in perpetuity’ restrictions or have recycled subsidy," the document adds.
The consultation says that the government also proposes to "make clearer in policy the requirement to plan for the housing needs of those who aspire to home ownership alongside those whose needs are best met through rented homes, subject as now to the overall viability of individual sites".
Under proposed transitional arrangements set out in the consultation document, local planning authorities would be given a period of six to 12 months to consider making amendments to their local policies.
"We recognise in particular that a change in the definition of affordable housing in national policy will require local authorities to consider their local plan policies in the context of relevant evidence," the document says. "They may need to develop new policy as a result, and carry out a partial review of the local plan."
An equalities statement published by the DCLG alongside the consultation says that the change to the NPPF’s affordable housing definition "could result in fewer numbers of existing affordable housing products being built by developers as part of their section 106 planning obligations on major development, if the new products are built instead".
The equalities statement says that households under 40 would benefit if more Starter Homes are built through section 106, but households aged 40 or over would "lose out as this group currently secures 35 per cent of all new affordable housing".
It adds that women may be less likely than men to benefit from a switch to Starter Homes, "as they are more likely to move into existing types of affordable housing than men (57 per cent compared to 43 per cent for men), while men and women each make 50 per cent of adults who aspire to buy but cannot currently afford to".
The statement also says that households with at least one disabled or long term sick member may be less likely to gain from a switch to Starter Homes "as 45 per cent of households moving into a local authority or housing association tenancy within the last three years reported at least one member having a long term illness or disability (compared with 19 per cent of aspiring homeowners)"
Consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy is available here.
Equalities statement: consultation on proposed changes to national planning policy is available here.