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Government should do more to tackle affordable housing – councils

Words: Laura Edgar
New houses / iStock

The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) and the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) are calling on the government to deliver the homes needed in the UK.

A report by the two organisations considers an online survey that was sent to council leaders, chief executives, heads of housing and heads of finance across the UK. It also looks at a round table discussion aimed a testing the analysis and draft recommendations.

In Homes For All: Ensuring Councils Can Deliver The Homes We Need, 72 per cent of councils say they believe that the viability test laid out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has hindered their ability to build social and affordable housing.

Eleven per cent of councils now think the viability test will provide the numbers needed to tackle “the biggest housing crisis of a generation," a figure that has decreased since last year, when 14 per cent thought it would help.

“With 96 per cent of councils describing their need for affordable homes as severe or moderate, and 89 per cent worried that the extension of Right to Buy will lead to less affordable homes, it is clear that there is a real crisis,” said Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA.

“Councils are concerned that government policy is not enabling them to deliver genuinely affordable housing - we need to have a housing strategy that provides affordable homes to all people.”

Of the respondents to the survey, 96 per cent described their affordable housing need as “severe or moderate” while 87 per cent did not think that starter homes will address the problem of affordability.

The report includes recommendations aimed at tackling the challenges of providing the necessary housing, including that the government puts in place a housing strategy to provide “decent homes for everyone in society”. It also recommended that councils should not be forced to sell off housing to fund the extension of the Right to Buy.

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, said: “Our main message is we need government to put in place a housing strategy for the nation that provides decent homes for all. Whilst efforts have been concentrated on so-called affordable homes this is often not the case and these homes remain out of reach for the vast majority of people.”

He said the situation is “even worse” for those dependent on social housing and affordable housing to rent.

“Current housing policy is in need of demolition. The time has come to start afresh by putting local authorities and new council homes at the heart of a new housing strategy.”

The report comes as the Housing and Planning Bill, which includes measures to build 200,000 starter homes and extending the Right to Buy, awaits the Royal Assent.

Last year, the APSE and the TCPA published Housing The Nation: Ensuring Councils Can Deliver More And Better Homes. It aimed to address issues that councils have in delivering and managing more social and affordable housing as well as setting out key recommendations for the then new Conservative government.

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