Ian Shires

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Willenhall North Ward, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Walsall MBC Learn more

Planning reforms could slash 30,000 affordable homes in five years

by Ian Shires on 7 October, 2020

Published in Local Government Chronicle 07 OCTOBER 2020 BY 

Areas could have missed out on nearly 30,000 affordable homes in the past five years if proposed government planning reforms were already in place, new analysis has revealed.

As part of plans to overhaul the planning sector, the government is considering removing the requirement for developers to build affordable housing on small sites. It is currently consulting on whether to apply this to sites where the number of homes is under either 40 or 50.

Analysis commissioned by the Local Government Association shows that between 2015-16 and 2019-20, there were 119,505 private homes built on sites of 10 to 49 units.

Based on an average of developers being required to make 25% of new housing affordable, this would have included 29,876 affordable homes being built for either rent or purchase. Under the government’s planning reforms these homes would not have had to be developed, including more than 5,000 affordable homes in the south east and almost 4,00 in the north west.

The LGA is warning that such a threshold could encourage developers to “game the system” by putting forward proposals of 39 or 49 or fewer homes respectively, on sites which are able to take more, to avoid affordable housing requirements.

In response to questions asked during ministerial webinars last month, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said that to encourage affordable housing for rent it proposes councils would “be able to require in-kind delivery of affordable housing”, and “specify the forms and tenures of onsite provision…within the context of national policy on affordable housing, and the government’s proposals around First Homes”.

Officials also pointed out that raising the site size threshold is proposed as a “time-limited measure for 18 months, in order to support SME developers” which “have been declining in the long term and were hit hard by the last recession”.

The LGA said latest government figures show more than a million households are on council waiting lists and almost 93,000 households are living in temporary accommodation.

LGA housing spokesperson David Renard (Con) said: “With rising housing waiting lists and record numbers in temporary accommodation, we desperately need to be building more affordable housing, not less. We need to build homes that are affordable to local people and help to reduce homelessness, rather than contributing additional funds to developers’ and landowners’ profits.”

Homes built 2015-16 to 2019-20, with affordable housing provided based on 25% estimate

East Midlands 11,764 (2,941)
East of England 14,350 (3,587)
London 11,975 (2,993)
North East 5,442 (1,360)
North West 15,680 (3,920)
South East 21,351 (5,337)
South West 15,028 (3,757)
West Midlands 12,945 (3,236)
Yorkshire & the Humber 10,970 (2,742)

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