Housing

Almost two thirds of UK councils are in ‘severe’ need of affordable housing

New research also finds that 70 per cent of local authorities report a rise in homelessness

Planning deregulation is to blame for the shortage of affordable homes, claims a new report.

The introduction of permitted development – a prior approval process that removes the need for developers to make a full planning application – in 2015 has allowed the creation of more housing units but they have not been filled with affordable properties.

In fact, an Association for Public Service (APSE) report – based on research by planning charity the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) – found that 63 per cent of 141 UK councils described their need for affordable homes as ‘severe’ with a further 35 per cent classed as ‘moderate’.

The government must be bold and ambitious in challenging the shortfall of housing for those in the most need in society

A total of one in three councils in England stated that permitted development would have a have a negative impact on councils’ ability to build affordable homes whereas just four per cent thought that it would improve matters.

And the lack of housing is not helping local authorities to stem the tide of rising homelessness – with 70 per cent of England’s 124 councils reporting an increase in statutory homelessness over the past 12 months.

That trend is replicated in rough sleeping with 57 per cent confirming that they have seen a rise in people living on the streets over the same period.

The report, titled Delivering affordable homes in a changing world: Ensuring councils can meet local housing need, has been released to coincide with the closing date of the government’s consultation on the draft revised National Planning Policy Framework today.

As a result of their findings, APSE and TCPA have outlined 10 recommendations aimed at tackling the housing crisis, ranging from investment in homes available for social rent to enabling councils to retain 100 per cent of Right to Buy receipts.

It also calls for a reverse to Local Housing Allowance cuts to prevent driving private renters into homelessness as well as giving powers back to local authorities by reining in permitted development laws.

Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive, said: “We are not providing anywhere near enough genuinely affordable homes and homelessness is rising. Our latest research highlights that councils want to provide more affordable housing for their local communities, but their ability to do so is being undermined by planning deregulation.

“Relaxing permitted development has led to tens of thousands of new homes being created without having to get full planning permission – for example through the conversion of commercial buildings into homes – and this means that councils are unable to secure a contribution to affordable housing from the developer, and little or no thought is given to the most basic issues, such as where children can play or whether there are enough doctors’ surgeries in the area.”

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, added: “The government must be bold and ambitious in challenging the shortfall of housing for those in the most need in society.

“As part of this, it must help councils return to their historic role as a provider of homes – recognising that evidence clearly suggests that we cannot rely on the private sector alone to meet the shortfall of housing supply.”

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