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Understanding demand

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced in October 2017 that NHS staff would be offered first refusal on affordable homes built on surplus land disposed of by NHS estate owners, with an ambition to benefit up to 3,000 staff.

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Demand for affordable housing amongst NHS staff will vary across the country and is likely to be most acute in London and other areas of high cost housing.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) expects strategic policy making authorities to assess local housing need and be informed by national data on household growth projections adjusted for affordability. In practice this means that most local authorities will have adopted supplementary planning guidance in order to target new housing supply in response to the housing need of future populations.

It is important to recognise that NHS staff face similar housing choices and housing challenges to anyone else earning similar incomes in the context of under-supply. The NPPF does make provision for LPAs to count housing for ‘essential workers’ as affordable housing but it does not explicitly require them to do so. The onus is on NHS employers to make the case for why staff should be given priority for housing over others in similar need.

To do this, estate owners are advised to work closely with workforce leads to understand what kind of housing might be needed to support retention and to ensure staff are made aware of the opportunity to secure affordable housing when it is available.

As a starting point, workforce leads could identify posts and grades that have experienced a trend toward higher vacancy and turnover rates. Undertaking analysis of the broad demographics of staff who typically hold those posts may identify the type of affordable housing provision needed.