A waiver exempting Aberdeen developers from the need to build affordable homes has been extended until June 2022.
City councillors extended the moratorium on affordable housing in the city centre – despite nobody moving into new homes as a result of the policy in the last two years.
The measures were originally introduced in a bid to stimulate building.
Plans for around 450 homes have been approved since their introduction in September 2018.
The largest scheme to benefit, the Point development at Triple Kirks, has around 340 homes which are soon to be made ready for people to move in.
Before the Covid-19 crisis struck, the site had been expected to be signed off in April.
Members of the council’s planning committee were told the pandemic had caused issues with the delivery of projects – but also heard the moratorium had led to a “significant increase” in applications to develop in the city centre.
Around 60 homes are currently being built, while work is outstanding on another 50.
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SNP councillor John Cooke moved a motion to take no action, meaning the moratorium would have ended later this year.
He said: “The waiver, which excludes affordable housing provision, is not sufficiently inclusive. I do want to encourage city-centre living, but not at the expense of low-paid folk.
“I am perfectly willing to accept the waiver may well have incentivised more residential development.
“I question the need for the waiver because it excludes lower-paid people, and in terms of the impact of Covid-19, it means we have a greater need for affordable housing than we did previously. It also means the economics of building in the city for a residential developer are going to be better than previously.
“I don’t think the waiver is any longer necessary.”
However, the move to extend the moratorium was passed by the committee.
Committee convener Marie Boulton said: “We are facing a horrendous situation, not just in Aberdeen but globally, and it’s imperative we move forward as a city.
“We have ambitions for the city centre to become a residential destination and more so now than ever we have to make sure that comes to fruition and remove barriers to developers being able to make these happen.”
She added there was a risk of “a desert in the heart of Aberdeen” if developers were not supported.
She said: “Developers have said the additional costs they are incurring because of coronavirus now has made some development not viable, we need to address that.
“We have to make sure we have a vibrant city centre which is a heart that beats, not one slowly dying because retail and office space is not occupied.”