Viability Assessments and Section 106

The problems with section 106 agreements are primarily that they are negotiable and transferable. The fact that developers are able to negotiate their way out of what is agreed at planning (Section 106 agreement)  through ‘viability assessments’ – often claiming the agreed provision of affordable housing is no longer viable – effectively holds projects and councils to ransom. If the developer wishes for the contents to remain hidden, councils are not even entitled to read the assessments they are supposedly making judgement on. Greenwich has now set a precedent in insisting that viability assessments should be made public, so hopefully this will change. This doesn’t change the fact that councils simply don’t have the resources to challenge what are often vast and impenetrable documents – somehow this culture of viability assessments has to change.

And section 106 is transferable. Often – as in the case with Greenwich Peninsula – developers make a deal offering to trade their provision of affordable housing in their development for a project or sum of money which can be spent elsewhere in the borough. If we follow this logic, this does not achieve ‘mixed communities’, but ghettoes of rich and poor in opposite ends of the borough (if not ‘poor doors’). In reality this sum of money gets further and further negotiated and in many cases diminishes to next to nothing (Tottenham Hale for example

As section 106 is not solely about the provision of affordable housing, but a transferable contribution to the local amenity, what might originally have been the provision of 35% affordable housing in the Heygate became the provision of a community leisure centre which would have cost significantly less then the affordable housing, and also at the same time reduces the amount of affordable housing provided. The provision of affordable housing as part of section 106 should not be transferable.

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