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BTR Developers Can Relax, As Manchester Kicks Affordable Housing Changes Into The Long Grass

An affordable housing protest in Vancouver, Canada

Build-to-rent and build-for-sale apartment developers in central Manchester can relax: dire warnings that the city council was about to rip up the rule book on affordable housing viability assessments look like they are coming to nothing in the current economic cycle.

The pressure to extract more money from developers for affordable housing swelled before May's city council elections, and culminated in a motion demanding action at the March meeting of the council. It followed rising concern by backbench members of the ruling Labour Group.

Senior Labour members responded by saying that even "if they had to unpick the planning process start to finish" the council's executive would come back with reform proposals later in the year.

Now a report to the city's executive committee — which comes after the electoral threat in key city centre wards evaporated — has kicked the idea into the long grass. The report said the council may be able to make changes to the assessment of affordable housing viability within 12 to 18 months, but that the real work ought to await a review of Manchester's main planning documents, timetabled for 2021.

In the meantime, the council may ask developers to provide more information when a planning application is submitted and validated, rather than later during the consideration of the application. The onus will be on developers to explain why viability information should not be published. A consultation on what information might be provided is expected to be completed by September.

Labour members welcomed the report as the start of a process. "There is an increasing public perception that we are being screwed by unscrupulous developers," council leader Sir Richard Leese said.