Failed planning system halts affordable housing in UK’s deprived areas

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affordable housing
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The latest report from the Town and Country Planning Association has revealed that a failed planning system is delivering next to no new affordable housing in England’s most deprived areas

The report released today (11th October 2018), found that during 2016-17, areas which have some of the UK’s lowest incomes such as Blackpool, Knowsley and Pendle saw no new affordable housing through the planning system.

However, the affluent Vale of White Horse were able to deliver a staggering 96% of their affordable housing through the same planning system.

In the UK, the planning system is heavily relied upon by many councils throughout the country, who need help to meet their area’s housing need.

Despite government pressure and over half of councils prioritising a minimum threshold for genuinely affordable housing using their local plans, only 2% are managing to achieve it.

With developers less keen to take on low-value areas, less and less affordable housing is being delivered in the areas which need them the most.

Henry Smith, projects and policy manager at the TCPA, said: “Although housing costs are often lower in more deprived areas of the country, they’re still out of reach for many local people.

“This research shows that the housing crisis truly is a national problem and not only limited to major cities and those living in the south east.

“Councils are being put in a difficult situation where they’re forced to furiously attract development to meet a five-year target imposed on them by the government.

“Many councils are responding to these difficult circumstances by acting in new and innovative ways, such as fast-tracking planning applications—considered a barrier by many developers—for schemes which meet higher levels of affordable housing. However, to truly make a dent on these numbers the government needs to immediately increase grant levels, for councils and housing associations to enable them to deliver genuinely affordable homes.

“It is also essential that the government creates a definition of affordable housing, which links affordability to income and people’s ability to pay rather than an arbitrary portion of the market rate.”

In many circumstances, developers have managed to bypass local requirements by submitting a scheme that meets the threshold and then backing out by claiming unworkable profit margins.

The government attempted to address this problem earlier in the year by restricting the use of viability testing to only ‘particular circumstances’, although councils aren’t convinced that this will curb the problem.

One official believes the changes will only create new problems, which local authorities will struggle to cope with.

Further findings showed that councils have been forced to specify a much lower level of need. In some cases, councils have dropped their affordable housing target to as little as 5% when the real need is as high as 85%.

As well as outlining the current issues, the report offers suggestions to change the current planning system to improve the way affordable housing is delivered.

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