Given recent comments made by various government ministers, one could be forgiven for thinking that the housing needs this government is promoting, are not exactly in line with those of the general population and that some form of hidden agenda is in play.
The link a the bottom of this page, is to an item about yet another council falling foul of the NPPF, whilst attempting to produce a Local Plan for their area. In particular, it details the difficulties involved in identifying the actual housing needs of an area, and the tensions that exist between the open market and the needs of those who can’t afford to buy, but are still in need of somewhere to live. Before the introduction of the NPPF, this latter group were catered for, in part at least, by a requirement to provide a percentage of affordable housing within all large scale housing developments.
The NPPF introduced a seemingly sensible requirement to consider the financial viability of any proposed development, when determining a planning application. This measure being designed to reduce the numbers of stalled developments, where permission had been given, but the developer couldn’t start building because the numbers did add up financially. However, far from being the common sense requirement we all assumed it to be, it has very quickly become a get out of gaol free card for the developers. Many of the volume house builders sort to cash in on the past housing boom by buying land at inflated costs, spurred on by the widespread belief that the housing price bubble would never stop inflating, let alone burst. This now misguided view, was further fuelled by the ease with which people could obtain a mortgage, even when it was obvious that they would not be able to maintain the payments if interest rates were to increase.
Despite the house price crash, David Cameron has fallen for the line fed to him by George Osbourne and pinned virtually all of his hopes for financial recovery, on a return of a market driven boom in house building – will they never learn? This means that any developer required to provide affordable housing is able to wriggle out of doing so, by playing the viability card, this despite a significant national decline in the provision of affordable housing as illustrated in the graph. Any local authority that has the temerity to continue to insist on the provision of affordable housing, is likely to be put back in its box by Eric Pickles’s equivalent of the KGB, the Planning Inspectorate. Graph taken from document: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/affordable-housing-supply-in-england-2012-to-2013
The ministerial comments referred to, hide a thinly veiled distaste for affordable housing in principle. They also display a fundamentally flawed belief that everybody, no matter how modest their means, should aspire to home ownership and that in doing so, they will become worthy members of society. Is this the naive vision from the out of touch and privileged elite now entrusted to run our country? Is it a more calculated strategy, designed to support their own financial interests and those of their associates? Or, is it a demonstration of an ingrained distrust of anybody who doesn’t aspire to home ownership and a belief that they are somehow lesser people?
Having strangled off the financial support provided by the Homes and Communities Agency for social housing, regularly refused to relax the borrowing limits on local authorities thereby preventing them from accessing the funds required to build more council houses and now given developers carte blanche to reject the requirement to provide affordable housing, one can only assume that, once again, the market has won and it’s to hell with those who can’t make the cut.