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Housing report calls for more rented accommodation

Councils should relax planning regulations for new homes to kick-start the construction industry, provide employment opportunities and increase the number of privately rented homes, a government-commissioned report suggests.

But critics suggest this could be at the expense of more affordable homes for people attempting to get on the property ladder.

The report is written by Sir Adrian Montague, chair of the 3i investment group, and calls for councils to forego including requirements for affordable homes in planning permission, in order to increase development.

The number of families renting has increased from 2 million in the 1980s to 3.8 million today, Sir Adrian found, with more staying in rented accommodation for longer before they can afford to buy property.

Housing demand is increasing each year at double the rate at which homes are being built and fewer conditions on planning permission could improve this situation, the report says. Developers would instead have to ensure that the houses built are available for rent for a minimum period of up to 21 years.

The report seeks to examine ways in which the timescale for building privately rented homes could be speeded up and also recommends that Government could donate land or funding to reduce the initial outlay and risk for developers, in return for a share of the profits when the schemes are sold.

Sir Adrian rejected the idea of a ‘kitemark’ for standards in rented homes and instead suggested a voluntary code of conduct for accommodation, energy efficiency, repairs and management.

Housing minister Grant Shapps endorsed the proposals and said: “We’re determined to encourage greater investment in the build-to-let market and boost the country's private rented sector, which plays an integral role in meeting the nation's housing needs and aspirations.

“Sir Adrian Montague’s findings offer both a blueprint for achieving this goal and for setting the standards of accommodation that people should expect. I will be considering his recommendations very carefully.”

But both housing associations and the opposition suggest that a better balance must be struck between rented homes and affordable housing.

The shadow housing minister, Jack Dromey, said: “As rents hit a record high in July, the Government should be acting to address this problem, not looking for ways to water down existing legislation, which could make the problem worse.”

Mike Jones, chairman of the Local Government Association’s environment and housing board, said: “Any strategy to boost the number of new rental homes should not come at the expense of new affordable housing.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said the report “misses a trick” in offering nothing for people already renting and seeking new homes.

David Orr, head of the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations, said: “We absolutely support the Montague report’s call for more investment in rented housing. That said; it is important to plan positively for housing growth which meets the needs of the whole local community.”

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