More than a third (40%) of all homes granted planning permission between in England between 2011 and 2019 remain unbuilt, according to new research.
An analysis of official figures by the housing charity Shelter and the House Builders Federation shows that more than 380,000 homes granted planning permission during that time period have not been built.
And the two organisations have warned that the backlog of unbuilt homes has grown by a further 100,000 in the last year alone.
The government’s own 2018 review found that private developers will stall construction if there is a risk of flooding the market, which would reduce the price any new homes could be sold for.
It is for this reason that Shelter is warning planning reform is no replacement for government investment.
The charity is urging the government to use its upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to accelerate spending on social housing and turbo-charge construction in the face of the Covid recession.
Social housing is the only type of housing that is affordable by design with rents pegged to local income, which would serve the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda, it argues.
‘The chronic shortage of decent, genuinely affordable homes in this country is one that must be fixed. But the government’s planning reforms fundamentally misdiagnose the problem,’ said Shelter chief executive, Polly Neate.
‘The idea that the planning system is stopping homes being built is a myth. Across the country hundreds of thousands of “phantom homes” sit on sites with planning permission fully approved. Rubber stamps are no replacement for direct investment in high-quality housing.
‘The government must roll up its sleeves and build the homes local communities really need, now more than ever in the face of a Covid-recession. It should spend the cash its set aside for housing that much faster and start building social homes now. The only way we are going to start building what we need is through pounds not planning.’
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, the countryside charity, commented: ‘The backlog of building in the midst of a housing crisis is one of this generation’s untold scandals. The figures released today provide yet more evidence of the fatal flaws in the government’s planning reforms, which are blinkered by unreachable housing targets regardless of quality, tenure or genuine affordability.
‘Unless there is a major change of direction from the government, we risk more poor-quality homes that do nothing to tackle the housing crisis or the nature and climate emergencies. The government urgently needs to give councils more powers to set stringent, enforceable deadlines for homes to be built, and to require more affordable homes that meet local needs, especially in rural areas where shortages are particularly acute.
‘Instead, the government’s planning proposals threaten to make things even worse by disempowering councils and handing more power to developers. Our communities deserve so much better.’
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