Only 2% of councils say their affordable housing targets are consistently met, TCPA reports

Only two per cent of councils report that developments in their area meet their local plan affordable housing targets all of the time, according to a new report by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA).

Affordable housing, Suckley. Pic: Peter Whatley
Affordable housing, Suckley. Pic: Peter Whatley

The Planning for Affordable Housing report by the TCPA for poverty charity Nationwide Foundation says the planning system is failing to deliver affordable housing for those in some of the worst-off parts of the country.

It found that a total of five authorities saw no new affordable housing delivered through the planning system in 2016/17. These include Blackpool, Knowsley and Pendle councils in the North West which are in some of England's poorest areas.

This compares to Vale of White Horse District Council in Oxfordshire, which in 2016/17 saw 96 per cent of its 280 affordable units, delivered through planning, the highest of all the councils surveyed.

The report's overall finding was that only two per cent of the councils who responded to the survey said that developers met their policies for affordable housing all of the time.

The sutdy also found that many councils are forced to specify much lower numbers of affordable housing in their local plans than necessary "because they believe that setting a level which meets their true requirement would deter developers from investing in their areas".

This, it said, has seen deprived areas setting their target as low as five per cent of new affordable housing when actual need is as high as 84 per cent.

The report calls for further reforms to guidance on viability assessments and says that government changes earlier this year to its Planning Practice Guidance to provide more transparency on viability testing at the local plan stage are unlikely to stop developers escaping policy requirements.

The report said: "The government has updated Planning Practice Guidance, but it must go further to prevent viability assessments being used by developers to avoid building affordable homes."

Other key recommendations include :

  • Setting an overall target for the number of affordable homes required in England.
  • Creating a "fairer and more effective way" to share the betterment gained through the granting of planning permission, to deliver greater amounts of affordable housing.
  • Changing the compulsory purchase order compensation code to remove hope value.
  • Rescinding permitted development rights allowing commercial-to-residential conversion without planning permission, "in order to maximise the number of affordable homes built through the planning process and preventing poor-quality outcomes for people".

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, but at the same time negotiate with developers to make sure that what is actually affordable to people most in need."

According to the TCPA, the report was based on a survey of 88 planning authorities as well as responses gathered from additional councils in round-table events.

The report can be found here.

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