New grant scheme to increase affordable housing stock

The National Park Authority is launching a new grant scheme, using money paid by developers, to deliver more affordable housing in the South Downs.

Grants of between £10,000 and £30,000 are now available for affordable dwellings constructed on rural exceptions sites (sites that would not be granted planning permission for open market housing) or for affordable housing delivered through community-led initiatives such as Community Land Trusts.

The National Park has some of the highest house prices in the country. Properties are in high demand with towns and villages regularly appearing in property sections under headlines such as ‘most desirable’, ‘prettiest’, ‘happiest’ etc. High-income urban households looking to move into the countryside and a shortage of land add to the problem.

Margaret Paren, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, said:

“Our new grants will contribute to the delivery of desperately needed affordable homes in the National park. Whilst all affordable dwellings on these special sites will be eligible, our funding will be aimed at social homes to be rented at the lowest rates possible, with the aim to keep the housing affordable in perpetuity. We want them to become permanent additions to the stock of affordable homes in the South Downs National Park.”

The consequences of a lack of affordable housing are severe with low income families facing a difficult future – having to move, leaving support and employment networks behind. This can destabilise villages, forcing out low income households and starving local services of employees and customers. With many jobs in the National Park being relatively low paid, people often can’t afford to live near their work and will often have to drive, an added expense which also increases traffic congestion and pollution.

The recently submitted South Downs Local Plan recognises the scale of this issue and seeks provision for affordable housing on both large and small developments. If endorsed by the Planning Inspectorate, new policies will require that 50 per cent of dwellings in developments of 11 or more homes should be affordable. For developments smaller than this there would be a sliding scale with, for example. a development with eight houses having to deliver three affordable homes or a development with four or five houses having to deliver one affordable home. Even developers building just three new homes would be required to make a financial contribution towards affordable housing.

People involved in community led housing initiatives who would like to know more about the grant scheme should contact mark.alden@southdowns.gov.uk