Policy blamed for society's failings

Housing policy is blamed for encouraging society to become increasingly polarised in a report issued last week.

The study, commissioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), claims that housing strategies discourage socially mixed communities.

Author Anna Minton argues that two economies exist side by side in towns and cities.

The UK's hot spots reflect booming house prices and an affordability crisis. Minton warns that less favoured locations breed social exclusion and antisocial behaviour.

The report blames misguided government policies focusing on affordable housing and helping first-time buyers onto the property ladder in hot spots, rather than promoting social housing elsewhere.

The result is unbalanced estates dominated by people on benefits, with polarisation worsened by a culture of fear, the study warns. Around 70 per cent of Britons fear that crime is rising despite the actual risk of being a victim being at an all-time low, it notes. This has led to a boom in private security measures at both ends of the social spectrum.

RICS chief executive Louis Armstrong said: "We know we are building less social housing and that more people are choosing to live in gated communities, deliberately cutting themselves off from mainstream society. The question is whether the British people are happy to follow the American model, leading to a fractured society."

Meanwhile, at the Thames Gateway Forum last week, National Housing Federation chief executive Jim Coulter urged planners not to repeat the mistakes that led to clusters of poverty in single-tenure communities. "The answer lies in creating mixed-income neighbourhoods that meet housing needs," he added.

Mind the Gap can be viewed via www.PlanningResource.co.uk.

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