Skip to main content
Close Menu Open Menu

Adam Place: How can housing delivery improve affordability?

The views in the blog are those of the author. To view the official RTPI position on the the government’s proposed planning reforms please view our national planning policy page.  

Adam Place MRTPI is Director of Viable Placemaking an independent town planning consultancy based in London.

The UK’s housing crisis has been looming for over a decade. During this time, the Government’s target of 300,000 homes per year has not been met. Moreover, this target does not reflect actual housing need, which recent studies show is far greater, not least of all because of the cumulative impact of under-delivery.

The recently concluded national planning policy reforms consultation would see a step back from requiring local authorities to maintain an up-to-date housing land supply. The prospective implications are that the housing delivery performance would worsen. In simple terms, the effects of these reforms could be as follows:

  1. Local Authorities are not required to maintain a five-year housing land supply
  2. The ‘tilted balance’, set out at 11(d) of the NPPF, is no longer engaged when councils don’t meet local housing needs
  3. This reduces the weight given in favour of the provision of housing in areas which are under delivering housing (in reality – areas which are not providing adequate housing for communities)
  4. Consequently, planning applications for housing are less likely to be granted in these areas due to the planning balance (which is no longer in favour of the provision of housing in an area which desperately needs it)
  5. The number of homes, proportionate to the number of homes we need, will decrease.

As such, the proposed national planning policy reforms would worsen housing delivery in the UK. Therefore, if the UK wants to begin to meet housing need, we must require local authorities to meet local targets. If local authorities meet their housing needs targets, which can be incentivised by the requirement to provide an up-to-date housing land supply, then the UK stands a better chance of meeting its cumulative housing needs.

If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves

In 2023, I founded Viable Placemaking, a planning consultancy with a specialism in development economics and viability. As my Planning Your World profile says, I have a background in applied mathematics and wanted to apply theory in practice. I have been involved in the planning and viability of countless schemes, from conversions to strategic urban extensions. To my amazement, millions of pounds (yes, millions) was being requested on unviable schemes. This resulted in many schemes, including residential developments, never actually getting to bricks and water which, during a national housing crisis, is a travesty. This is an issue which must also be carefully considered in any responses to the technical consultation on the Infrastructure Levy.

Viable Placemaking recently published twin briefing notes on housing and affordability which included an explanation on the role housing delivery plays in affordability, through a metaphor of plane tickets:

'If there is an ample supply of plane tickets, the seats will be charged reasonably (with the added benefit of not giving the customers any anxiety in a rush to buy them). However, when there are not enough seats for the people who wish to make the flight, the ticket price will rise. It would not matter whether you are in a first-class seat or economy, the price would rise and may become unaffordable to many who might wish to board. As such, many people will be left unable to ever board a flight unless something changes…'

The same is true of housing affordability…


There is, however, a ‘simple’ solution to this issue – the airline should put on another flight. We need to build more homes.

When read in the context of the national policy reforms, it is clear that these changes would worsen housing affordability.

It seems to me to be impossible to be a town planner and not be passionate about housing delivery and affordability. We must remain committed to providing all types of housing where it is viable and deliverable at a site and put people back at the forefront of placemaking. As planning professionals, we have the opportunity to carve a slice of the places that we and our fellow people are able to enjoy, and it is our aim and our privilege to do our utmost to ensure this meets the needs of the community.

Back to top