The myth of affordable homes

“Some of the UK’s biggest cities are allowing developers to plan huge new residential developments containing little or no affordable housing, a Guardian Cities investigation has found.

In Manchester, none of the 14,667 homes in big developments granted planning permission in the last two years are set to be “affordable”, planning documents show – in direct contravention of its own rules, and leading to worries that London’s affordable housing crisis is spreading.

In Sheffield – where house prices grew faster last year than in any other UK city, according to property portal Zoopla – just 97 homes out of 6,943 (1.4%) approved by planners in 2016 and 2017 met the government’s affordable definition. That says homes must either be offered for social rent (often known as council housing), or rented at no more than 80% of the local market rate.

In Nottingham, where the council aims for 20% of new housing to be affordable, just 3.8% of units given the green light by council planners meet the definition, Guardian research found. …

One major way developers get past planners is by filing confidential “viability” appraisals. These assessments, which often take place once significant work on the development has already been done, frequently conclude that, if the developer were forced to include any affordable flats, their schemes would be insufficiently profitable.

Research by the housing charity Shelter in November found that where viability assessments were used, new housing sites achieved just 7% affordable housing.

Liberal Democrat councillor John Leech, the one-man opposition to the Labour-run council in Manchester, has demanded the council publish these appraisals so that they can be scrutinised.

Last year, Bristol council decided to force housing developers to do so. Guardian figures show that in the last two years just 6.77% of new developments in the city will be affordable. …

Other cities are far more strict with developers. In Cardiff, 24% of the homes granted planning approval in 2016 and 2017 met the affordable definition.

Leeds council routinely forces developers to include at least 5% affordable units in any large development. Some 2,011 affordable homes have been built in Leeds since 2012 – 510 of which were in the private sector, agreed as part of agreements with big developers. …”

One thought on “The myth of affordable homes

  1. Yet another example of the stupidity of letting developers write the planning rules to include convenient loopholes that the very same developers can then use to avoid denting their enormous profits (and executive bonuses) by having to do unprofitable stuff like build affordable houses or make contributions to Community Infrastructure Levy or S106.

    This is Capitalism at its finest – it’s all about the bottom line profitability and nothing about being a part of society or having a social conscience. Only government regulation can keep rein of rampant capitalism – unrestrained free markets simply gives bosses permission to abuse the system and the public like this.


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