Blueprint to promote low-cost homes

3 Jun 99
Planning regulations must be tightened up so that more people have the chance to rent or buy low-cost homes, ministers were told this week.

04 June 1999

A national blueprint on affordable housing, launched on May 29 by four major housing bodies, claims that current regulations are too vague and work to the advantage of house builders, whose idea of affordable often excludes prospective tenants and homeowners on low incomes.

Under proposals likely to upset developers, local plans drawn up by council planning committees would set clearer targets for the type of affordable housing required in each area. These would include more homes for rent or shared ownership – at below market levels – provided by local authorities or housing associations. Where homes are sold at a discount, this discount should remain in place when a property is resold.

The blueprint, drawn up by the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation, Shelter and the National Council for Housing and Planning, has been sent to planning minister Richard Caborn and housing minister Hilary Armstrong.

Although the government is consulting over revising planning guidance, it has not indicated any willingness to change Circular 6/98, on which most regulations covering the type of homes built by developers are based.

Tim Southall, planning policy officer at the NHF, said about a third of councils include definitions of affordable housing in local plans. He said: 'There is too much onus on house builders to come forward with a suitable offer, rather than them having to meet statutory requirements.'

The federation estimates that only about 30,000 affordable homes are built annually, whereas the number required is closer to 100,000.

The high cost of land in many areas means that providers of social housing are dependent upon securing land through the planning system. Merron Simpson, policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said clearer regulations would prevent builders from exploiting loopholes and increase the likelihood of low-cost homes being built in the right places.


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