Councillors facing 2,500 people waiting for social housing are considering measures to deter developers from giving a minimal part of their profits to help ensure more people have a stable low-cost home.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for housing, Simon Myers, described moves across the county by developers to renege on section 106 agreements to help solve the social housing crisis in the county as “absolutely infuriating”.
Almost half of all the country’s affordable housing is funded through section 106 agreements, deals struck behind closed doors between council officers and developers.
The deals are often a major factor which councillors consider when deciding upon controversial planning applications.
While developers often claim they can no longer afford to fund affordable housing due to rising costs, many councils have no comeback when housing developers find their profits are higher than predicted.
However, some authorities have started attaching a clawback mechanism on section 106 agreements to secure affordable housing funding on “extra” profits.
Potential policy changes at the Northallerton-based council follow scores of developers seeking consent to cut or end their payments in recent years across North Yorkshire, citing rising building costs and the need to make the enterprise sufficiently profitable.
It also follows the developers behind a small-scale scheme in Ravensworth applying to withdraw their agreed social housing contribution last month, partly because of questions hanging over Richmondshire District Council’s affordable housing policy.
Holmedale Valley Developments pointed to a recent Planning Inspectorate appeal decision over a plan to build two houses near Leyburn which concluded the former district authority had not sufficiently established the need for affordable housing.
Objecting to the developers’ move, Ravensworth Parish Council said it had unanimously decided the firm should be required to pay the contracted affordable housing contributions.
A parish council spokesman said: “Affordable housing is becoming a rare commodity in villages like ours. It should be beholden upon developers to deliver properties where locally employed people can afford to live and raise their families.
“The contribution to this ambition is a relatively small sum compared to the price of any of the dwellings sold and no doubt to the profit secured.
“Consequently, the Parish Council is adamant the fees be paid in full and indeed, consider this is the very least that should be expected from the developer.”
Coun Myers said as North Yorkshire Council was undertaking a review of its housing policy it was too early to say what tools it could use to address the issue, but he wanted the authority’s strategy to be truly ambitious.
He said one developer had spent a year battling over its affordable housing contribution.
He added: “Often the problem is developers often pay too much for the land, but that’s a matter for them. They do their sums. I don’t think we should bend on affordable housing where we can avoid it.
“We know that we have 2,500 people in North Yorkshire on the housing waiting list. We need to develop affordable housing.”