Plea for commitment to affordable homes
14 March 2011
Housing developers must not be let off the hook in building affordable homes.
That’s the message from two housing bodies following a surprise announcement by Finance Secretary John Swinney that planning rules on affordable housing are likely to be relaxed.
At present, most councils have rules which say that in developments over a certain size a ‘quota’ of homes (typically 25%) should be provided for rent or low cost ownership, usually by housing associations.
This has helped to increase the supply of affordable homes and also ensured a social mix in new developments.
However, since the housing market reversal of 2008, developers have argued that so-called ‘quota’ policies are acting as a burden, making development unviable in a more fragile climate. Mr Swinney appears to have agreed with them by saying, at a recent conference, that the chief planner would be writing to local councils to advise them to relax quota policies.
Now, two housing bodies, Shelter Scotland and the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland, have challenged that move.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity, said:
“It is right that, in changed market circumstances, the Scottish Government should look again at the role of the planning system in delivering affordable homes. But to simply relax current requirements is to throw the baby out with the bathwater and put new supply of affordable homes at risk at a time when the Scottish housing budget has been the chief loser in spending cuts.
“The truth is that private developers have never liked affordable housing quotas, even in the so-called boom times. There’s a real danger that the housing market circumstances are being used as an alibi to backtrack on a policy that will then be dead and buried in the future.
“And to do so is, once again, to make the poorest in society the victims of a recession not of their making.”
David Bookbinder, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland, said:
“As far as CIH Scotland is aware, it is far from the case that the 25% ‘requirement’ is being demanded uniformly, so the notion of relaxing this seems odd. We recognise the particular pressures on developers in terms of planning gain, but we need to be very careful about moving away from something which was hard fought for over a number of years. It’s patently obvious that the planning system is failing miserably to make available a decent supply of viable land for affordable housing, so even if planning gain demands are indeed relaxed in some areas, overall we need to be demanding more from the planning system on land supply.”
Concerns were raised after Finance Secretary John Swinney said at the Scottish Property Federation’s annual conference that the government’s chief planner was writing to local authorities to say ‘the requirement for 25% affordable housing should be viewed with more relaxation than is currently the case’.
Notes to Editors:
1. Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity. Shelter Scotland believes that everyone should have a home. We help people find and keep a home. We campaign for decent housing for all.
2. Spokespeople are available for interview, telephone the media office on 0844 515 2442. An ISDN line number is available for broadcast interviews.
3. For more information about Shelter Scotland visit www.shelter.org.uk
5. Link to Scottish Property Federation press release re John Swinney’s statement on affordable housing: http://www.bpf.org.uk/en/newsroom/press_release/PR110222_2011_Scottish_Property_Federation_annual_conference_Swinney_pledges_action_to_unlock_development.php
6. For more information about CIH go to www.cihscotland.org or contact David Bookbinder, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, 07950 684153