West Oxfordshire Local Plan Housing Consultation

Affordable housing need

4.47 Affordable housing is for those with a housing need who are unable to rent or buy suitable accommodation on the open market. The need for affordable housing is often most acute in areas with high property prices and/or low wages.

4.48 Meeting the identified need for affordable housing is a key consideration in setting a housing target. Local authorities should aim to meet the full, objectively assessed need for affordable housing as far as is consistent with the policies set out in the NPPF.

4.49 The Oxfordshire SHMA identifies a need for 274 affordable homes per year in West Oxfordshire over the period 2013 - 2031. To meet this need in full, 685 homes per year would need to be built. However, there are a number of issues to consider.

4.50 Firstly, the figure of 274 affordable homes per year does not take account of affordable housing already in the development 'pipeline' (i.e. with planning consent). Taking account of such committed schemes, the requirement falls to 257 affordable homes per annum.

4.51 Secondly, the level of affordable need identified in the SHMA is higher than the Council's previous evidence from 2011 which suggested a net need of 220 affordable units per annum. Assuming 40% delivery of affordable housing on all market-led schemes, to meet this need in full a total of 550 homes per year would be needed.

4.52 Thirdly, as explained in the SHMA itself, expressed over a 20-year period, the affordable housing need figures are likely to over-estimate the levels of housing provision necessary. It goes on to state that, 'the affordable housing needs model is based on evidence of need and supply of affordable housing at a point in time and is not designed to (or necessarily suitable) for considering overall housing need'.

4.53 Fourthly, the overall level of housing provision needs to be realistic and achievable. In relation to Oxford City for example, to meet the identified affordable need in full, a total of 2,058 homes per annum would be needed compared to 400 homes per annum identified in the Council's adopted Core Strategy. This is clearly not a realistic proposition.

4.54 It is also important to remember that there are other mechanisms to deliver affordable housing not just as a by-product of market led housing schemes for example subsidised access to private renting or private market purchase, adapting existing homes and better utilisation of the existing affordable housing stock to meet identified needs.

4.55 The SHMA analysis also takes no account of the role of the private rented sector in meeting affordable housing needs. The accommodation options provided by the private rented sector are in reality likely to reduce the level of affordable housing need identified..

4.56 Finally, it is important to recognise that the ability to deliver affordable housing is influenced by funding mechanisms and other factors which support affordable housing delivery. Figures therefore need to be treated with caution in terms of setting a target for the provision of affordable housing over a 15-20 year timeframe, recognising that there are a range of factors which could influence the affordability of market housing and mechanisms for delivery of affordable housing over this period.

4.57 To summarise, the Council accepts that some uplift in overall housing numbers is needed to help meet the affordable housing need identified in the SHMA but does not accept that this need can necessarily be met in full (or indeed should be planned for given the limitations of the model used).