South Somerset Council plans to increase house building after missing the affordable home target

South Somerset District Council has a policy of ensuring that affordable homes make up at least 35 per cent of any new development of ten houses or more which is approved.

But figures published in a council report have shown that less than one in five of the new homes built across South Somerset in 2018/19 were affordable.

The council has accepted its performance is below-par and said it would take action to ensure more new homes could be delivered.

Every local authority in the UK is set a target by the central government for how many houses it should be delivered in a year – 725, in South Somerset’s case.

But each council can decide for itself how much affordable housing is expected as a share of major new developments.

According to a report which came before the council’s district executive committee on Thursday morning (June 6), a total of 652 new homes were completed in 2018/19 – or just under 90 per cent of the amount, the government expects the council to provide.

Of these new homes, only 122 were affordable – the equivalent of 18.7 per cent or less than one in five.

Council leader Val Keitch – who also holds the portfolio for housing – said the number of homes the council is expected to deliver annually could change as a result of its Local Plan being reviewed.

She said: “In the new Local Plan preferred options paper – which guides how South Somerset will develop in the coming years – our objectively assessed housing need is for 716 homes to be delivered per year, with a target of 35 per cent affordable housing on qualifying sites.

“In the past year, we delivered 122 affordable homes, which was an improvement on the previous year (2017/18), when the comparable figure was 75.

“We are fully aware of the fact that we are currently not delivering housing at the target rate and we are committed to accelerating this.”

Delivery of affordable housing is usually secured through a legal agreement between the council and the developer.

These Section 106 agreements bind the developer to provide a range of other things as well – such as contributions towards highway infrastructure, school places and community facilities (such as play areas).

Ms Keitch said: “On some sites, developers claim that delivering all these requirements compromises the financial viability of the development.  When this occurs an independent viability assessment is often undertaken.

“There is sometimes compromise required if much-needed housing is to be delivered. The amount of affordable housing is, unfortunately, one of many areas where compromise is sometimes required for a site to go ahead.”

Plans to remove all affordable housing from a development of 47 homes at Bayford Hill in Wincanton will be debated by the council’s area east committee on Wednesday morning (June 12).

Ms Keitch has committed to “develop proposals to accelerate the delivery of housing in the district, and to ensure that this includes the desired number of affordable homes.”

The preferred options document – which lists all the proposed sites for housing and employment up to 2036 – will be going out to public consultation later in June, according to the council’s website.


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