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Starter homes will not address affordable housing need, say councils

Words: Laura Edgar
Starter homes

Almost 80 per cent of councils think that starter homes should not be classified as affordable housing – and 93 per cent of councils don’t believe the government initiative will address affordable housing need, according to study results.

The study also suggests that 96 per cent of councils rate their need for affordable housing as severe or moderate.

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) conducted the survey on behalf of the Association for Public Sector Excellence (APSE).

Its objective is to understand whether the current policy framework and the Housing and Planning Bill supports local authorities in taking an active role in planning, delivering and managing new homes of all tenures, and if not, what might need changing.

How The Housing And Planning Bill Impacts Councils, Starter Homes And Right To Buy considers issues facing councils, including the extension of the Right to Buy scheme to housing association tenants and the impact of starter homes.

A short survey was sent to council leaders, chief executives, and the heads of planning of housing and finance during February 2016 using Survey Monkey; 105 councils responded out 353, with roughly all political parties proportionately represented.

Councils of all political parties agree that the government’s Starter Home policy will hinder rather than tackle the “growing need for genuinely affordable homes” in England as well as expressing concern about the extension of the Right to Buy policy.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the TCPA, said that although low-cost home ownership, such as starter homes, may help some people get on the housing ladder, “this will not address the need for genuinely affordable housing”.

“We need a housing strategy for the nation that provides decent homes for everyone in society, including those most in need in the current housing crisis,” said Henderson.

“Our survey has revealed that four out of five councils do not think starter homes should be classified as affordable housing because they are simply not affordable for essential low-paid workers – whose employment underpins an economy on which we all depend – or for many people on average incomes.”

Furthermore, 69 per cent of respondents say the government’s proposal to reduce social rents by 1 per cent for the next four years has negatively affected plans for new social and affordable housing. Just 3 per cent say they have plans to build more social and affordable homes as a result.

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents rate their affordable housing need as severe, while 37 per cent say it is moderate. Additionally, nine out of 10 councils are concerned that the right to buy extension to housing association tenants will mean there will be fewer social rent homes available.

Paul O’Brien, chief executive of APSE, said: “What is clear from these survey results is that the headlong rush to extend Right to Buy to housing associations is an ill-thought out measure which enjoys little support, and this is reflected across the different political parties at a local level.

“We say to the government, now is the right time to listen on right to buy.”

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