Affordable housing on a ‘rural exception’ site in the village of Plaxtol, Kent

Affordable housing is an essential part of equitable planning and development but often treated as an afterthought. Green Balance has worked extensively to promote affordable housing in planning policy, particularly with the National Housing Federation (NHF) – the trade body representing the Housing Associations who provide it.

We first represented the NHF with written and oral evidence to the South East Regional Plan in 1999. Here we persuaded the Examination Panel to accept over half the 25 changes we proposed to the Plan, and some others in part. These included changes now widely accepted as good practice, such as:

  • housing requirements should be calculated from demographic changes, not revised downwards to reflect the incomes of new households;
  • a variety of tenures and dwelling types should be planned for, based on surveys;
  • the affordable housing target should be a key monitoring indicator for the Plan; and
  • plans should recognise the contribution of affordable housing to social cohesion.

Our involvement with the NHF nationally has included providing wide-ranging planning advice on issues affecting affordable housing supply, addressing more than a dozen NHF conferences, running planning training events, and – for an 18 month period between head office staff with planning responsibilities – taking a part-time role as in-house planning advisor.

We have also worked with the NHF regionally to promote affordable housing supply in regional plans in the East Midlands, West Midlands, North West and again in the South East.

A one-day Planning Masterclass run for regional planning staff in 2010 was welcomed by NHF’s national planning Policy Officer: “[The course] was really insightful and you gave the subject a life that made such a dense technical world much more accessible. I think everyone really enjoyed the day and gained an understanding of planning and what it all means. It certainly was really beneficial to me to hear again how it all fits together.”

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