Commons committee warns that PD rights and First Homes threaten social housing provision

The government's First Homes proposals for discounted homes for first-time buyers and its continued expansion of permitted development (PD) rights both threaten the provision of social housing, according to a new report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.

Clive Betts, chair of the Commons housing, communities and local government select committee. Pic:
Clive Betts, chair of the Commons housing, communities and local government select committee. Pic:

The report says that 90,000 new social homes will be needed every year to meet the country’s housing needs, requiring around £10 billion extra grant funding.

But it concluded that the Government could significantly reduce the extra public spending needed by reforming land value capture, assembling and using public land for social housing, and redistributing expenditure from existing budgets. 

And while acknowledging that permitted development rights (PDRs) “can be a route to provide fast and cost-effective housing”, it adds: “We remain concerned about the lack of affordable housing obligations and lack of safeguards for quality. Without reforms, it is likely the planned expansion [of PDRs] will further reduce the delivery of social housing through the planning system.”

It recommends that the First Homes policy, which proposes a discount of 30 per cent on market rates to local first-time buyers, should be added as an affordable housing scheme within the National Planning Policy Framework, rather than be imposed as a requirement for all local authorities.

This would allow authorities the discretion to "set out policies for which affordable tenures, including First Homes, best meet the needs of their local communities”. 

And it warns: “The current proposals have the potential to negatively impact on social housing delivery. 

"Furthermore, significant regional variations in the value of planning obligations… mean on some development sites, First Homes might squeeze out all other tenures or by itself make the development unviable.”

It also recommends that the setting of planning fees should be devolved to local authorities, with a national minimum rate.

The document states: "It is imperative that local planning authorities have the right resources to deliver the social housing this country needs, and to ensure private developers deliver sufficient social housing on new developments."

Launching the report, committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “We believe the target of at least 90,000 new homes a year can be reached in five years, but only if the government gives providers sufficient financial backing and reforms the wider landscape that social housing providers operate in.

“This must be a long-term commitment to creating a social housing system that meets long-term demand. It will be challenging but it is achievable.”

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