Housing is a big issue in the UK - we aren’t building enough affordable homes to keep up with increasing demand. National and local level policy is working to respond, but process and limited data access has left councils under equipped to negotiate higher levels of affordable housing.
Southwark Council is leading the way on rethinking viability assessments, initiating a discovery to understand why viability assessments aren’t working and what we can do. With the support of FutureGov, we began to understand how the better use of digital tools and data can equip councils, building a data prototype and two further design concepts that illustrated how the viability assessment process could be improved.
Recognising the urgency of this work, The Connected Places Catapult convened a partnership with Southwark Council, Tower Hamlets, the Greater London Authority and FutureGov to take the discovery prototypes through to alpha.
Testing concepts with case officers, viability officers, consultants and developers led to prioritising the viability comparison tool and allowed us to refine our focus and reframe the problem from “how might we prototype a better way to evaluate viability assessments?” to “how might we embed new tools and approaches and harness the value of data?”
Through this collaboration, we’ve proved it’s feasible to build something functional with data. Using data as an enabler, we developed a viability data schema , openly available for other projects and organisations dedicated to planning.
The comparison tool prototype we developed is one example of a digital intervention that could be powered by viability data, supporting council officers to have better, more informed negotiations about what is viable where. We created a video explanation and demonstration to make the process easy to understand. And we developed an operational blueprint to share how we envisage the future viability assessment process in a mature council.
We’ve compiled a brief overview of the project and its outputs.If you’d like to further discuss the work or if you’re interested in joining the next phase, get in touch with Kate Taylor (Digital Planning Team Lead at Connected Places Catapult), Jack Ricketts (Planning Officer at Southwark Council) or Britt Wood (Project Director at FutureGov).