Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

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Viable villages: closing the planning loophole

For decades, England hasn’t built enough genuinely affordable homes in rural or urban areas.

Following cuts to capital grant and financial restrictions on councils, we now rely on private developers to deliver a large share of new affordable homes through the Section 106 system. But since 2012, national planning rules have blunted this tool by enabling the widespread use and abuse of viability assessments.

Developers can use viability assessments to argue that building affordable homes could reduce their profits below competitive levels, which they define as around 20%. This gives them a legal right to cut their affordable housing quota. 

The consequences for rural communities can be particularly devastating, as house prices are often higher – and wages lower. Losing even a small number of affordable homes can be the difference between post offices and schools staying open or not, and villages thriving or dying as families and young people are priced out.

(Please note that some text on page 17 of Viable Villages was altered post-publication to add context)

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