Planning deregulation reduces local authorities’ ability to secure affordable homes as homelessness rises

The TCPA’s latest housing research for Association for Public Service Excellence finds that a lack of investment in genuine affordable housing alongside deregulation of planning is reducing local authorities’ ability to secure the homes the nation needs.

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The research, involving a survey of councils across the UK, shines a stark spotlight on the desperate housing crisis experienced across the country with 98% of councils identifying their need for affordable housing as either severe or moderate.

Over two thirds of councils in England state that statutory homelessness levels have increased in their local area in the past 12 months and 57% state that rough sleeping has also increased during this period.

The key message from this report is that investment in social housing has a vital role in securing mixed and thriving communities.

Decent housing in a well-planned environment provides a foundation for helping people to maximise their contribution to society, and to create areas that are economically prosperous.

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.

The report calls on the government to 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.

The research also highlights that councils’ ability to secure affordable housing 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.

One in three councils in England stated that permitted development would have a negative impact (that they would be able to build less affordable homes) which is why we are calling on the government to reverse the central imposition of permitted development and give powers back to local authorities to reflect local circumstances.

It remains clear that the government is serious about getting more homes built and we support that, but if policies might not incentivise councils or ensure the delivery of well-designed affordable homes in the right locations then surely we all have a responsibility to help inform government policy and come up with constructive solutions.

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