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Homelessness rises as councils struggle to secure affordable homes

A lack of investment in affordable housing is reducing local authorities’ ability to secure the homes  that the nation needs, according to a report published last week.

The report, ‘Delivering affordable homes in a changing world: Ensuring councils can meet local housing need’, published by the Association for Public Service Excellence (ASPSE), which was researched and written by the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA), argues that the deregulation of planning is also contributing to difficulties in meeting housing needs.

A whopping 98% of councils have identified their need for affordable housing as either severe or moderate.

Tragically, over two thirds of councils in England claim that statutory homelessness levels have increased in their local area in the past 12 months and over half have said that rough sleeping has increased during this period.

In order to create more homes, the government has deregulated planning by introducing measures to convert commercial buildings into homes through permitted development.

This requires a prior approval process, but removes the need for the developers to make a full planning application to the local authority.

Permitted development has created more housing units, but the research has revealed that this is not enabling councils to secure much needed affordable housing or helping them deal with the rising tide of homelessness.

Kate Henderson, TCPA chief executive, said that not nearly enough genuinely affordable homes are being provided and that homelessness is rising.

“Our latest research highlights that councils want to provide more affordable housing for their local communities, but their ability to do so is being undermined by planning deregulation,” she added.

She argued that relaxing permitted development has led to tens of thousands of new homes being created without having to get the full planning permission, meaning that councils are unable to secure a contribution to affordable housing from the developer.

Henderson added that “little or no thought is given to the most basic issues”, such as children’s play areas or the number of doctors’ surgeries.

"Changing the use of a commercial building into homes can be a sustainable use of assets meeting local housing need.

“However, the research reveals that permitted development can have significant long-term, negative consequences for councils and communities.

“We are calling on the government to reverse the central imposition of permitted development and give powers back to local authorities to reflect local circumstances,” she continued.

Chief executive of APSE, Paul O’Brien, added: “What our report highlights is the extent to which insecure tenancy arrangements in the private rented sector are directly contributing to the rise in homelessness.

“We need local councils to act as ‘market disruptors’; bringing stability and capacity to the social rented sector which in turn will help to stem these almost unprecedented rises in both statutory homelessness and rough sleeping.”

He called on the government to be “bold and ambitious” in challenging the shortfall for those in the most need in society.

Top image: Rui Vieira


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