Housing law change putting social housing at risk

Homelessness charity Shelter has warned that a proposal designed to speed up the creation of new homes could provide a ‘get-out clause’ for developers to avoid providing affordable homes.

If implemented, the government proposals would enable builders to buy and demolish commercial buildings and create new homes without planning permission, extending permitted development rights but also possibly allowing developers to build properties without providing social housing.

Whilst one in 10 new homes created last year were created in this fashion, with some homes as small as 13sq metres, but local authorities do not get the chance to see plans before the homes are built, therefore missing out on planning fees, as well as contributions towards affordable homes.

Therefore, extending the right further could create a new ‘social housing black hole’ if the rules allowed more developers to avoid building affordable homes as part of their project. Such fears seem well founded, with 73 per cent of new homes built last year in Stevenage arriving through permitted development rights. 159 affordable homes were delivered in Stevenage, despite its waiting list for social housing standing at 1,862 households.

Polly Neate, the CEO of Shelter, said: “Anyone can see it’s wrong to give developers a licence to dodge social housing when hundreds of thousands of people are homeless. We need to raise the alarm so the government halt these plans and instead look to bring down the cost of land to build the social homes we need.”