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Calls to relax rules on cheaper homes attacked
PROPOSALS to relax rules on affordable house building have been slammed as “horrendous” by leading Worcester politicians.
Housing minister Grant Shapps has called for councils to water-down policies which compel developers to build affordable homes amid fears it is stopping many projects going ahead.
The construction industry has been lobbying ministers, insisting many developments are not worthwhile because of the double-dip recession.
In Worcester, any developers planning to build 12 properties or more are told to make sure 40 per cent are affordable. At a planning committee meeting, the idea of relaxing it was heavily criticised.
Councillor Aubrey Tarbuck said: “I’ve asked the question about our affordable housing waiting list and the fact is, we need 4,500 homes built right now to satisfy demand.
“If we can’t get affordable homes this way, how can we get them at all? It could be horrendous.” The idea was first muted in June, and was given more weight this week when the Policy Exchange, a think tank, published a raft of new suggestions to boost construction.
It included encouraging councils to sell off the most expensive large social housing in their areas to plough the cash back into new, cheaper ones elsewhere, as well as setting aside existing affordable housing rules.
Councillor Geoff Williams, chairman of the planning committee, said: “Without some form of compensation, it could threaten any local authority’s ability to deliver affordable housing. This is a key issue in this city given the size of the waiting list.”
Councillor Paul Denham added: “Our requirement to have 40 per cent affordable housing on new developments is just about the only mechanism which has helped the situation.
Sir Adrian Montague, a government adviser, has also called upon councils to relax affordable housing rules in a report, with Mr Shapps endorsing it as a “blueprint”. He believes too much focus on being placed on affordable homes at the expense of rented accommodation for young professionals.