Frequently asked questions about affordable housing
- What is affordable housing and who is eligible?
- How do I apply for affordable housing?
- I am interested in a specific development, how can I apply for it?
- What tenancies are available?
- What is shared ownership?
- How do I apply for shared ownership?
- What is extracare housing?
- What is sheltered housing?
- What does local connection mean?
- What is a section 106 agreement?
- What is housing need and how is it measured?
- Can people living outside of Wiltshire still apply?
- Can the developer opt out of providing affordable housing?
- How will you ensure that the homes are truly affordable?
- What is a commuted sum and how are the payments spent?
- Where and when are homes advertised?
- How is affordable housing funded?
- What are exception sites?
- What is a strategic housing market assessment (SHMA)?
- How do I find out about adapting my property?
Affordable housing is housing for those who cannot afford what is readily available on the open market. A house is not affordable if it takes more than 30% of gross income or if the mortgage needed is more than 2.9 times joint income or 3.5 times single income.
The government's definition of affordable housing is:
Affordable housing includes social rented and intermediate housing, provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market.'
You can apply for affordable housing through Homes4Wiltshire - the partnership of the council and the partner Registered Social Landlords. You can apply online at Homes4Wiltshire or by filling in an application form which is available at Wiltshire Council’s offices.
Social rented housing is defined by the government as: 'rented housing owned and managed by local authorities and registered social landlords or housing associations.'
Affordable rents are a form of social housing rents and affordable rented homes will be made available at up to a maximum of 80% of gross market rent (inclusive of service charges where applicable) and allocated in the same way as social housing is at present.
Intermediate affordable housing is: 'housing at prices and rents above those of social rent, but below market price or rents, and which meet the criteria set out above. These can include shared equity products e.g. HomeBuy, other low cost homes for sale and intermediate rent.'
You can find out more about the different types of tenancy in our section on how to access affordable housing.
Shared ownership is about helping people to get a foot on the property ladder.
Many housing associations and some house builders offer shared ownership schemes.
Shared ownership means that you only buy what you can currently afford. It enables people to own their own home but to just buy a share in their property, rather than having to raise a mortgage for its full purchase price. You can buy from as little as 25% of the property, or as much as 75%.
Typically, you may wish to buy a 50% share to start off and pay rent on the unsold share of the property. The housing association or house builder retain ownership of the other 50% and if you can later afford a larger mortgage you can buy further shares. Eventually, you could staircase up to full ownership of the property. If you never reach that stage, you do not have to buy further shares at all; it is up to you. Provided that you keep up to date with your mortgage and rent payments you continue to live in the property in exactly the same way as if you owned 100% of the property.
Further shares will be at full market value of your property at the current time, based on the percentage share you are purchasing, and you will have to pay the normal legal and conveyancing fees. At no time will the remaining shares be sold to someone else.
You can at any time if you want to, sell your original share to another qualifying purchaser who has been assessed as being in need of affordable housing, following the processes set out by the council.
All shared ownership properties in Wiltshire are advertised through the regional HomeBuy agent, South West Homes, and in most cases will also be advertised on the Homes4Wiltshire website. To register your interest for any shared ownership homes you will need to register both with South West Homes and with Homes4Wiltshire.
Extra care housing is self-contained housing for older people who need both support and care to remain able to live independently. It can provide an alternative to residential care, nursing care, supported living and sheltered housing. It aims to provide ‘a home for life’ for many people even if their care needs change over time.
Find out more about extra care housing.
Sheltered housing is housing for people aged over 50. Sheltered housing schemes provide different levels of support, from independent homes with lifeline services to warden-managed housing schemes.
If you would like more information about sheltered housing in Wiltshire, please see our sheltered housing section.
Local connection refers to the restrictions that exist on who may be eligible for some affordable homes, whereby only people with an established connection to the local area are entitled to obtain affordable housing in that area. This could include a connection through family members living in the area, or through your employment in the area. Local connection applies to some affordable housing developments in order to ensure that local people have access to housing in the area.
Section 106 of the Town and County Planning Act, 1990, relates to monies paid by developers to local planning authorities in order to offset the costs of the external effects of development. For example, if a developer were to build 100 new houses, there would be effects on local schools, roads etc., which the local authority would have to deal with. In that situation there might be a Section 106 agreement as part of the granting of planning permission. The developer might agree to make a contribution towards the provision of new schools.
Section 106 arrangements are currently being reviewed by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Housing need refers to the local need for affordable housing. Please see our section on housing needs for more detail.
Yes. Priority is often given to people with a local connection but the housing register is open to those currently living elsewhere. If you would like to apply for affordable housing, you must register with Homes4Wiltshire.
Developers need to comply with the affordable housing requirements contained within the planning policies, and will be expected to meet the targets set for provision of affordable housing. However, in some cases there may be exceptional circumstances why it is not viable for a developer to deliver the full policy requirement, and in those circumstances the council will require the developer to provide a full open book assessment to justify any reduction. This could result in a lower percentage of affordable housing being delivered on a site, or in the council accepting a commuted sum for affordable housing instead. Any commuted sums would be used to provide affordable housing elsewhere in Wiltshire and would be subject to member approval.
The guidelines on affordable housing are set by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
A commuted sum is a cash payment made in lieu of the onsite provision of affordable housing. There are limited circumstances in which commuted sums are appropriate, as defined in the relevant Wiltshire Council planning policies. Where a commuted sum is agreed upon, it would be used to provide affordable housing elsewhere in Wiltshire and would be subject to Member approval.
All affordable housing in Wiltshire is advertised through Homes4Wiltshire. You will need to register with Homes4Wiltshire in order to bid on a rented property. If you are interested in shared ownership you will need to register with Homes4Wiltshire and with South West Homes and will need to check the website of the HomeBuy agent, South West Homes, for up to date details of shared ownership homes for sale.
Affordable housing is funded in a variety of ways including national grants managed by the Homes and Community Agency and developer contributions.
Exception sites are sites in small villages which have not been allocated for development in the Local Plan or Local Development Framework, but which might be suitable for small schemes of affordable housing for local people.
The granting of planning permission in exceptions sites is usually dependent on the following:
- the site being close to the development boundary of the village
- general local support for the proposal
- evidence of local need
- long term mechanisms to limit occupancy to local people and avoid 'right to buy'
- appropriate scale of development (i.e. small and tailored to needs)
The strategic housing market assessments are the evidence bases describing the local need for housing and informing planning policy in a local area. If you would like more information about the Wiltshire SHMAs, please see our section on housing need.
Sometimes houses need to be adapted in order to meet particular needs, for example through the provision of access ramps or grab rails. If you would like to find out about grants that are available to adapt your property, please see our section on disabled facilities grants.
If you have any questions about the development of new housing that are not answered in this FAQ, please contact us and we will be happy to help.
Last updated: 26 February 2013