Government must tackle historically low social housing numbers, says LGA

By agency reporter
July 3, 2018

The definition of 'affordable housing' must include homes for social rent in forthcoming government changes to planning policy to tackle the historic low numbers of social rented homes across the country, the Local Government Association says today.

The LGA warns that homes specifically for social rent are at risk of being eliminated after a revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) dropped the reference to “social rent” homes from the Government’s definition of affordable homes, whilst including Starter Homes and other, less genuinely affordable, forms of housing.

It comes amid an already “unprecedented shortage” in affordable housing with the supply of homes for social rent, which provides secure tenancies on low rents, at a historic low. Just 2.48 per cent of homes built in 2016/7 were designated for social rent – down from 3.59 per cent of all homes built the year previously.

All forms of affordable housing – including affordable homes for purchase through various initiatives - fell to 19 per cent of new homes in 2016/17, the second-lowest figure ever recorded. The previous low, 17.2 per cent, was recorded in 2015/16. Until then, that figure had never slipped below 20 per cent since records began. Historically, about a third of all homes built have been designated for various forms of affordable housing.

The LGA is calling on the Government to drop proposed amendments to the NPPF to ensure homes for social rent remain part of planning policy and to supply a long-term strategy to deliver genuinely affordable housing in the upcoming Social Housing Green Paper.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, will be publishing a new report Housing, Planning and Homelessness at its Annual Conference in Birmingham on 3 July 2018 to set out how the Government can use its forthcoming Green Paper to empower councils to trigger the renaissance in council housebuilding needed to fix our broken housing market.

This includes a call for the Government to ensure all councils can borrow to build to deliver new homes, keep 100 per cent of receipts of homes sold under Right to Buy and adapt discounts locally, and powers to ensure all developments contribute to the provision of affordable housing.

Although the Government recently allowed some areas of the country to access limited headroom for borrowing for new homes, this will not meet the full need for truly affordable homes across the country, and the Government should go much further, much faster, says the LGA.

Cllr Judith Blake, LGA Housing spokesperson, said: “Councils are determined to ensure their residents have access to affordable housing. By removing social rent from the definition of affordable housing, the Government has effectively removed the tool to help that happen.

“It’s essential that homes of all types and tenure are available so that local communities can deliver a balance of housing to meet a mix of needs. Homes for social rent can prevent people from spiralling into social housing, and alongside starter homes and new builds, play an important role in a thriving housing market.

“The country needs to be building approximately 300,000 homes a year of all types and tenure to address our housing shortage. It’s essential that the Government ensure social rent is included in the definition of affordable housing in the upcoming changes to planning policy, but more widely, the imminent Social Housing Green Paper is a real opportunity to give councils the tools they need to trigger the renaissance in council housebuilding we desperately need.

“All councils should be able to borrow to build, not just a select few, and the Government should take steps to allow this as soon as possible. In addition, councils should be able to keep 100 per cent of the receipts of the homes that are sold and adapt discounts locally to ensure a steady supply of genuinely affordable homes in our area.  

“Tackling our national housing shortage is rightly a priority for the Government – it’s essential they put in place measures that would help, rather than hinder this, at the local level.”

* The LGA has published a series of papers ahead of the government's Spending Review, which aim to 'start the new thinking around building the case for long term, sustained investment in local government as well as laying out the positive outcomes this would deliver for the country.' Housing, planning and homelessness: Moving the conversation on can be read here

* Local Government Association


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