Affordable Housing Through Planning

The Institutional Framework

In the latter part of this chapter, we turn the focus onto the specific role of planning in facilitating the provision of ‘affordable’ housing in an ‘inclusionary’ fashion, where we can report on quite a distinctive and relatively successful development of policy over 25 years, albeit now at something of a crossroads. We start by reviewing some key features of the background, in terms of institutional legacy from previous periods, before discussing the immediate origins and evolution of the policy mechanism that is now generally known as ‘Section 106’, and how it works.

Two features of the UK housing scene around 1990 are worth highlighting. Firstly, local authorities were the main players in implementing public housebuilding and housing policy generally for the whole postwar period, but under the Thatcher government from 1979 their role was increasingly circumscribed, legally and financially; they could no longer build much if any housing themselves and they were obliged to sell off a lot of their (better) stock. They were still responsible for meeting housing needs (including homelessness) and planning for their areas, but were explicitly expected to do this by adopting an ‘enabling’ role (i.e. working through others) to procure social housing (Bramley 1993). Secondly, particularly since legislation in 1974, a substantial sector of non-profit housing associations had been built up, initially concentrating on specialised ‘niche’ roles, special needs and urban regeneration, but latterly going more into ‘general needs’ new building. These provided a politically acceptable vehicle for social housing provision which was also financially at arms’ length from the public sector (Malpass 2010). In many localities, after 1990, existing public stock was transferred to newly created housing associations, so speeding the growth of this sector (Mullins and Pawson 2009).

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