Councils call for change in ‘affordable housing’ definition

Council leaders have called for a change to the definition of ‘affordable housing’ in order to tackle low numbers of social rented homes across the country.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that homes specifically for social rent are at risk of being eliminated after a revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) dropped the reference to ‘social rent’ homes from the Government’s definition of affordable homes.

It comes amid an “unprecedented shortage” in affordable housing with the supply of homes for social rent.

According to figures from the LGA, just 2.48% of homes built in 2016/7 were designated for social rent – down from 3.59% of all homes built the year previously.

The LGA has called on the Government to drop proposed amendments to the NPPF to ensure homes for social rent remain part of planning policy and to supply a long-term strategy to deliver genuinely affordable housing in the upcoming Social Housing Green Paper.

The call by the LGA comes after official figures published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last week revealed that just 4,944 replacement homes were started or bought to replace the 11,465 homes sold by councils under the Right-to-Buy scheme in 2017/18.

‘Councils are determined to ensure their residents have access to affordable housing,” said LGA housing spokesman, Cllr Judith Blake.

‘By removing social rent from the definition of affordable housing, the Government has effectively removed the tool to help that happen.

‘It’s essential that homes of all types and tenure are available so that local communities can deliver a balance of housing to meet a mix of needs. Homes for social rent can prevent people from spiralling into social housing, and alongside starter homes and new builds, play an important role in a thriving housing market.

‘The country needs to be building approximately 300,000 homes a year of all types and tenure to address our housing shortage. It’s essential that the Government ensure social rent is included in the definition of affordable housing in the upcoming changes to planning policy, but more widely, the imminent Social Housing Green Paper is a real opportunity to give councils the tools they need to trigger the renaissance in council housebuilding we desperately need.’

Jamie Hailstone

Journalist  

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