Concern new rule will create ‘social housing black hole’ in Stevenage


- Credit: Archant

Plans to speed up the building of new homes could create a “social housing black hole” in Stevenage, the housing charity Shelter has warned.

Under Permitted Development Rights, developers in England can currently convert office buildings into homes without the need for planning permission, or the need to make any of the homes affordable. They also have no obligation to make a financial contribution to social housing.

The Government is proposing to extend these rights to also include commercial buildings.

Shelter data shows Stevenage is one of the top 10 hotspots in the country for this get-out clause, with 73 per cent of new homes last year coming through PDR, and just 159 affordable homes delivered in 2016/17.

The data shows nearly one in 10 homes nationally are delivered in this way, but councils do not get to see plans before homes are built and miss out on planning fees.

It is most acute in just a handful of areas - only 10 local authorities account for nearly a quarter of all new homes delivered using PDR. Stevenage sits third from top.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s CEO, said: “There are 1,575 households on the social housing waiting list in Stevenage, and yet new plans are now being developed that could supercharge a social housing get-out clause for developers.

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“This risks creating a social housing black hole just at the time when the people of Stevenage need them most.

“We need to raise the alarm so the government halts these plans and instead looks to bring down the cost of land to build the social homes we need.”

Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “There is a real demand for affordable housing and our residents need homes they can afford within the town. Meeting this housing demand is challenging, but we are taking a proactive approach to development, with an emerging Local Plan setting out ambitious plans to deliver over 7,600 homes, including a significant proportion of affordable homes.

“The council is also committed to building over 300 council homes by 2022, with 162 already being delivered since 2014.

“Developers should not be allowed to escape the democratic planning process or their obligations to deliver a percentage of social housing.

“We are working hard to deliver new social housing to a high standard in Stevenage and believe developers should do so too.”