Local authorities warn of ‘severe’ need for more affordable homes

14 May 18

Nearly all UK local authorities have a ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’ need for more affordable housing, a survey has warned.

Lack of investment and deregulation of planning were the main reasons given for hampering councils’ ability to help provide the number of homes needed in the UK, the report published by the not-for-profit  Association for Public Service Excellence found.

Of 141 UK councils surveyed, 63% described the need for affordable housing as ‘severe’ while 35% describe their need as ‘moderate’.

Seventy per cent of 124 councils in England noted an increase in statutory homelessness in the last year, the survey revealed. It was researched and written by the campaigning organisation the Town and Country Planning Association on behalf of APSE and released last week.

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, said: “Investment in high quality social housing can also save public funds, such as through reducing poor physical and mental health outcomes that are currently experienced by those living in an unstable private rented sector or those in temporary accommodation.”

Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive added: “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.”

The report noted that while relaxing planning regulations allowing developers to convert offices into homes without the need for full planning permission had created more accommodation it had made it more difficult for councils to secure ‘affordable properties’. If development plans go through the full planning process local authorities can secure ‘affordable homes’ through section 106.

“Relaxing permitted development has led to tens of thousands of new homes being created without having to get full planning permission and this means that councils are unable to secure a contribution to affordable housing from the developer”, Henderson said.

The research by the TCPA showed that one in three councils in England believed these changes to permitted development had a negative impact on the delivery of affordable homes.

The report called on the change to be reversed and for planning powers to be given back to local authorities allowing them to make decisions to “reflect local circumstances”.

O’Brien said the report showed that insecure private rented sector tenancies had contributed to the rise in homelessness.

He said local authorities needed to bring “stability and capacity to the social rented sector, which in turn will help to stem these almost unprecedented rises in both statutory homelessness and rough sleeping”.

The government must be “bold and ambitious in challenging the shortfall of housing for hose in the most need in society,” O’Brien added.

It must also help councils return to their historic role as a provider of homes, he urged.

APSE is a non-profit membership organisation for local government officers.

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