Campaigners have expressed further anger at the planning reform proposals announced by the government last week.
Homelessness charity Shelter and Labour’s shadow housing secretary are among those who have voiced further opposition against plans to scrap Section 106 agreements – under which developers deliver affordable homes in exchange for permission to build – saying the move could see the end of affordable housing.
The government intends to replace the agreements – as well as the community infrastructure levy – with a new levy it claims will increase revenue levels collected nationally when compared to the current system.
The government says these reforms will also ensure the delivery of more affordable housing. But opposition parties and housing experts fear the reforms will be a step backwards.
“Pathetically low number of social homes”
Commenting again on the planning reform proposals, Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said: “Section 106 agreements are how the majority of our current social homes get built.
“We get a pathetically low number of new social homes built each year, far fewer than the number sold or demolished. We desperately need to be building more social homes, not putting the now already pitiful trickle at risk.
“Scrapping section 106 might well make developers happy, but for over a million households currently on the social housing waiting list, this could throw their chances of ever getting a secure, genuinely affordable home into even more doubt,” Neate said.
Sondhya Gupta, of SumOfUs, an organisation that campaigns against power grabs by big business, said the reforms would see local people removed from planning decisions.
She said: “COVID-19 has made us feel more connected to our communities, and many of us have become more attuned to what infrastructure is needed locally.
“To take that decision-making away from local people and instead give it to greedy property developers is a smack in the face for local democracy.”
Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “These toxic reforms could spell the end of affordable housing and show that this government is more interested in helping its wealthy donor mates than working people who need good quality affordable housing.”
In the financial year to April 2019, 6,287 new social rent homes were delivered, while around 23,740 were sold or demolished in the same period.
The MHCLG response
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, dismissed suggestions the government was pandering to property developers.
“These claims are completely untrue,” it said.
“Our proposals will introduce a simpler levy that ensures developers deliver at least as much – if not more – affordable housing.
“This new levy will raise more revenue than under the current system.”
Growing opposition to the planning reform proposals come in the wake of an already ill-received reception when the government revealed the Planning for the Future white paper last week.