Homes for social rent ‘have to be’ part of new national planning policy

Call from LGA comes as the number of such homes tips towards historic low.

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The LGA says homes for social rent ‘have to be’ included in government changes to planning policy – with the number of such homes now tipping towards an historic low.

On paper, homes specifically for social rent appear to have been eliminated after a revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) – with the reference dropped from the government’s definition of affordable homes.

Starter homes and other, less genuinely affordable, forms of housing are included.

To the LGA the shortage in affordable housing is ‘unprecedented’.

Just 2.485 of homes built in 2016/17 were designated for social rent – down from 3.59% of all homes built the year previously.

All forms of affordable housing – including affordable homes for purchase through various initiatives – fell to 19% of new homes in 2016/17, the second-lowest figure ever recorded.

The previous low, 17.2% was recorded in 2015/16.

Until then, that figure had never slipped below 20% 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.

Tomorrow (July 3), the LGA will be publishing a new report ‘Housing, Planning and Homelessness’ at its Annual Conference in Birmingham.

The report will 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% 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, the LGA believes this won’t meet the full need for truly affordable homes across the country, and the government should go much further, much faster.

Cllr Judith Blake, LGA Housing spokesperson, said councils are “determined” to ensure their residents have access to affordable housing, and 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, alongside starter homes and new builds, play an important role in a thriving housing market,” said Blake.

To the LGA, some 300,000 homes a year of all types and tenure need to be built to address the present 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,” said Blake.

“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% 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,” she said.

Picture: Alliance Homes

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