Draft Local Plan October 2012

Affordable Housing

5.20 Whilst there is some variation across the District, house prices in West Oxfordshire are much higher than the national average. Our housing needs evidence (2011) suggests that in some parts of the District, even relatively small, modest properties are beyond the reach of most single income households. The cost of renting is also high with district-wide rents having increased by 7% since 2008.

5.21 As a result, there are around 2,000 households on the waiting list for affordable housing in West Oxfordshire. We define 'affordable housing' as that which is affordable to those who cannot afford market priced housing locally to rent or purchase. It is housing provided with either public or private subsidy for people who would otherwise be unable to resolve their housing requirements in the local housing market because of the relationship between housing cost and local incomes. Such housing should remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or, if these restrictions are lifted, the subsidy should be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.

5.22 Increasing the number, type and distribution of affordable housing for both rent and subsidised sale is a key priority for West Oxfordshire. This includes the delivery of new affordable housing through market housing schemes as well as the provision of small scale affordable housing schemes in villages where there is housing need which is best met locally.

5.23 Taking account of the priority need for affordable housing in West Oxfordshire, a contribution towards affordable housing will be sought from all new additions to the stock of market housing i.e. any scheme involving a net gain of one or more dwellings.

5.24 In terms of the amount of affordable housing to be provided, the Council wishes to achieve at least 35% of all new homes built in West Oxfordshire during the plan period as affordable homes (equivalent to at least 100 additional affordable homes a year). Whilst the housing needs assessment justifies a higher target than this, the 35% overall target is considered to be a pragmatic response to recent delivery levels as well as future delivery and funding challenges.

5.25 As some new housing sites will only be viable at a low level of affordable housing provision, other sites will need to deliver affordable housing at a level higher than 35% in order to achieve the overall target. Viability evidence and past delivery has identified that 50% affordable housing is viable in much of the District although lower proportions are viable in Witney and Carterton. For this reason, the Council will adopt a differential approach whereby in Carterton the proportion of affordable housing sought will be 35%, in Witney 40% and across the rest of the District 50%. It is acknowledged that proposals need to be economically viable and the Council will reassess these requirements where this is demonstrated to be necessary by a viability assessment that has been independently validated.

5.26 With regard to the type and size of affordable homes, this will need to reflect the current housing strategy, local housing need and relevant site constraints. Based on local needs, the Council is seeking, as a guide, an overall mix of affordable housing in the following proportions:

- 65% to be one and two bedroom homes to meet the needs of younger single and couple households, older people and small family households;

- 35% to be three and four bedroom homes.

5.27 In terms of tenure, there is a significantly greater need for rented accommodation than for the various forms of intermediate housing therefore a ratio of 2:1 in favour of rented homes will be generally sought.

5.28 In line with national policy, the priority is for new affordable housing to be provided on-site so that it contributes towards creating a mix of housing. However, the Council recognises that for very small developments, the provision of affordable housing on-site may not always be possible and can lead to lengthy negotiations in relation to viability and delivery. For this reason, the Council will be prepared to accept a financial contribution towards affordable housing from schemes of 1-5 dwellings (net) rather than requiring on-site provision. This approach will have the advantage of providing greater certainty to all parties from the outset and will also reduce the length of time spent in negotiations.

5.29 In line with the NPPF, the Council will seek to ensure that, having regard to issues of viability, any commuted sum paid by a developer or landowner is of 'broadly equivalent value' to that which would have been provided on site. Commuted sums received from developers will be used by the Council to subsidise provision of affordable housing throughout the District including the potential acquisition of land to facilitate the delivery of community self-build schemes in appropriate locations. Further information on the potential calculation of financial contributions is set out as part of the consultation in a separate background paper and the Council's approach will be developed further prior to the Local Plan being formally published in spring 2013.

5.30 For larger residential schemes of 6 or more dwellings (net) the Council will expect new affordable housing to be provided on-site. Only where it can be robustly justified, will provision on a separate site or through a financial contribution (of broadly equivalent value) be potentially considered as acceptable. This could include circumstances where it may not be physically possible or feasible to provide affordable housing on the application site or where there is evidence that a separate site would more satisfactorily meet local housing need. In some instances, a combination of on-site provision and a financial contribution may be considered appropriate.

5.31 In addition to securing new affordable housing through market housing schemes, the Council will welcome in principle other solutions to meeting the District's affordable housing need such as self-build. New build affordable homes contributing towards the District target will include those provided as an element of new residential development and additional homes proposed and built by housing associations or community trusts on other land. The Council will also continue to identify suitable sites for affordable housing through rural exception sites (RES). This approach has been in operation throughout West Oxfordshire (outside Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton) for over 20 years and has delivered over 350 new homes to meet needs which were not otherwise being met within the local community. This exception approach will remain available for 100% affordable housing schemes to meet specific local needs on land which would not be released for market housing.

5.32 The NPPF refers to the possibility of allowing some market housing in rural areas where this would facilitate the provision of significant additional affordable housing to meet local needs. Any such proposal will be considered against the relevant policies of the Local Plan including in particular Core Policy 2 - Locating Development in the Right Places. Where the site is in a location that would not normally be considered appropriate for new housing, it will be for the developer or landowner to demonstrate not only why the site is suitable for housing, but also why a traditional rural exception site approach (i.e. 100% affordable housing) is not appropriate or achievable. In other words, they will need to demonstrate why the market housing is needed to subsidise the delivery of the affordable housing. In such cases, any market housing would be expected to be a subsidiary element of a predominantly affordable housing scheme.

5.33 The Council has in place an existing Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) on Affordable Housing (2007). This will be updated upon adoption of the Local Plan including further advice on the issue of self-build.

CORE POLICY 8 - Affordable Housing


Taking into account the housing needs of the area and subject to the economic viability of the specific development proposals, a contribution to affordable housing provision will be sought where a net gain of one or more market homes is proposed. The required level of affordable housing provision will be as follows:

- Carterton - 35%

- Witney - 40%

- Elsewhere in the District - 50%

In circumstances where it can be demonstrated that the level of affordable housing being sought would make a scheme unviable, a revised mix and type of housing will be considered before a lower level of affordable housing provision is accepted. Where external funding is available it may be applied to schemes to ensure affordability of rental levels or to increase the number or to change tenure or type of homes to meet priority needs.

For residential schemes of 1 - 5 dwellings (net) the Council will be prepared to accept an appropriate financial contribution towards off-site provision of affordable housing. Subject to viability considerations, any contribution should be of 'broadly equivalent value' to that which would have been provided on-site.

For residential schemes of 6 or more dwellings (net) the Council will require the provision of affordable housing on-site. Affordable housing mix and tenure will be responsive to identified local needs and site specific opportunities. An equivalent financial contribution for the provision of affordable housing on other sites in West Oxfordshire in lieu of on-site provision may be appropriate if it can be demonstrated that:

  • It is not physically possible or feasible to provide affordable housing on the application site; or
  • There is evidence that a separate site would more satisfactorily meet local housing need and contribute to the creation of mixed communities.

In some instances, a combination of on-site provision and a financial contribution may be appropriate.

West Oxfordshire District Council and its partners will work with Parish Councils, Registered Providers of affordable housing and local housing, community land and self build trusts to identify additional suitable rural sites for small scale affordable housing schemes to meet specific local housing needs which cannot be met in any other way. All new homes on these sites will remain affordable in perpetuity to people in housing need who have a local connection with the parish or appropriate adjoining parishes. Sites will be well-related to the existing built-up areas of towns and villages. Where family homes are proposed priority will be given to locations within a reasonable walking distance of a primary school.