Yesterday the ConDem Government announced all sorts of planning proposals designed to "boost the economy".
While, removing the need to get planning permission for conservatories got all the headlines, the announcement on affordable housing drew horror from homeless charities…and the Local Government Association itself.
The Government's Department for Communities and Local Government website states that "Developers who can prove that councils' costly affordable housing requirements make the project unviable will see them removed."
The truth is that this has been going on in Salford for years, despite Council policies that demand 20% affordable housing in any development over 25 houses. The Salford Star revealed (in issue 4) that during the year 2006-7, only 2% of new developments had to provide affordable housing – 175 affordable units out of 8933 applied for.
In March this year, the Star further revealed that a Countryside Properties development in the Top Streets of Higher Broughton didn't have to provide any affordable housing because it would make the scheme "unviable" - despite bulldozing the affordable terrace houses that were previously on the site (see here).
Meanwhile, in April, the Star also exposed new Salford Council plans that would rip up all requirements for developers to provide affordable houses in the poorest areas of Salford (see Salford Council Gives City To Developers – click here).
Salford Council documents at the time showed that a housing scheme becomes "economically unviable" after developers have taken a whopping 20% profit.
Cameron and Clegg's new planning announcement give Government blessing to more of this – and will mean that areas not included in Salford Council's proposals to rip up the affordable housing requirement (in Monton, Boothstown, Worsley et al) will now be included.
Meanwhile, the ConDem Government has also relaxed the rules on developers having to pay Section 106 contributions which go towards things like new roads and playgrounds next to new housing developments, if they had planning permission before 2010 and the development has been stalled.
Even the Tory chairman of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, came out spitting against the proposals…
"The perception that councils are asking for unaffordable 'nice to have' add-ons through these requirements is wrong" he said "In addition to much needed affordable housing, section 106 agreements also fund roads and even new schools to support developments. There will be no economic growth if we don't build social houses for low-paid workers."
In a strange case of double-speak, David Cameron also announced funding of £300million for `affordable housing' and to bring empty homes back into use, arguing that "The net effect of all of these proposals, let me be very clear, is more, not less, affordable homes."
In response, Seyi Obakin, chief executive of the homelessness charity Centrepoint told The Guardian "Allowing new developments to go ahead without affordable housing sends out completely the wrong message, especially as new government figures today show that homelessness has risen 9% compared to the same time last year.
"Whilst £300m for more affordable homes is welcome, the big question is whether people will actually be able to afford to rent them" he added "Increasingly we are seeing housing associations charging higher and higher rents which many working people can't afford and housing benefit simply may not cover."
In another planning proposal announced yesterday, big commercial and residential applications can now be `fast tracked', with developers opting to have planning decisions made by the Planning Inspector rather than local councils. Perhaps anticipating the policy, Peel Holdings have already been doing this all over Salford and beyond (see here). All of which makes a mockery of any pretensions towards `localism' and putting more power in the hands of local people...
See the ConDem spin on all the proposals - click here