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02/05/2018

Availability of affordable homes heads councillors’ agenda

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing / Shutterstock_84968503

Providing affordable homes for constituents is the top priority for councillors, according to Newgate Communications’ Planning Committee Barometer.

The barometer’s results are compiled from a poll of 5,500 members of planning committees across England, to which 670 councillors responded. It comes as people go to the polls tomorrow (3 May) to vote for councillors in the local elections.

For councillors, the top priority is providing homes that are affordable for future generations. The green belt was cited as a priority by 18 per cent of respondents.

The barometer found that 61 per cent think that the housing crisis is getting worse – just 8 per cent say it is getting better.

Of the respondents, 51 per cent believe that slow build-out rates are to blame while 18 per cent say community opposition is the reason for the continuing housing shortage.

Seventy per cent of councillors think more affordable homes need to be delivered if affordability is to improve, with 45 per cent saying more homes need to be built in general. Only 3 per cent say affordability is not an issue in their local authority area.

Further to this, 60 per cent of councillors believe that developers are using viability assessment to avoid planning obligations.

According to the survey, only 14 per cent of local authorities actively encourage conversations between committee members and developers on planning applications. Indeed, 20 per cent report being actively discouraged to engage with developers.

Additionally, 43 per cent of respondents say they would support a green belt review in their area if it were done to provide land for housing – but 45 per cent admit they would not.

Rebecca Eatwell, managing partner at Newgate Communications, said: “Local councillors clearly think that the housing crisis is getting worse and there was a general feeling in the research that developers are a big part of the problem.”

This “reflects a wider reputational issue facing the industry at present”, she explained, with suggestions from the government that developers indulge in land banking.

“Yet we work with many housebuilders and developers that are genuinely trying to create sustainable communities that deliver inclusive growth. The contribution that the housing sector makes to both local communities and the national economy is often overlooked. I’d argue it’s time to stop apportioning blame and for local councillors to work with developers to tackle the issue together.”

Image credit | Shutterstock

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