MP INTRODUCES BILL ON DEFINITION OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING “In a wider political environment characterised by a lack of trust in politics, our planning system is part of the problem”

It’s the first day of #FizzFreeFeb and from Sandwell to Barnsley, Kent to Newcastle, Northampton to Lancashire people are pledging to #GoFizzFree

Helen Hayes (centre) at Southwark council’s ‘Fizz Free’ launch

MP Helen Hayes has introduced a bill in the House of Commons to define affordable  housing in relation to household incomes.

The bill, which would also amend the law relating to land valuation and compensation, is set to get its second reading on Friday March 22nd – but could be scuppered if any MP just shouts ‘Challenge’ – as MP Sir Christopher Chope has done in the past few months over other private member’s bills on FGM and ‘upskirting’.

If approved it may, ironically, impact on schemes such as Lambeth council’s ‘Homes for Lambeth’ and Croydon council’s ‘Brick by Brick’.

“Our planning system, deregulated and modified in recent years, too often fails to deliver against either the promises it makes or the real and pressing needs of local communities” Helen Hayes (Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood) told MPs as the bill got its first reading.

“We need an agenda for reform  the definition of affordable housing and of the rules around land values and viability.

“Our planning system, deregulated and modified in recent years, too often fails to deliver against either the promises it makes or the real and pressing needs of local communities.

“In a wider political environment characterised by a lack of trust in politics, our planning system is part of the problem.

“Every time a new housing scheme is delivered in which even the ‘affordable’ homes are far out of reach of local people in housing need, every time a new building starts to look shabby after just a short time and every time planning permission is granted but nothing happens on the site for years, trust is eroded a little more.

“It is time to restore a vision of planning as the key to meeting the needs of local communities while also safeguarding their interests for future generations, and it is time for planning to step up and play its full part in helping to restore trust in democratic processes.

“We need an agenda for reform, and I want to set out today two reforms—of the definition of affordable housing and of the rules around land values and viability—that could make an immediate difference.

“My Bill, which is supported by Shelter and the Town and Country Planning Association, seeks to reform our planning system to deliver the fair outcomes communities desperately need and to accelerate the delivery of genuinely affordable social housing.”

Just as important as the definition of affordable homes is the cost of the land on which they are built, she added.

“Despite reforms introduced last year, which were welcomed, our planning system still affords landowners the right to the future value of development rights or planning permission, which are granted by and in the gift of the planning authority.

“This so-called hope value dramatically inflates the cost of land, and inflated land prices make it much more difficult for councils to buy land in order to deliver social housing.

“In a recent example in south London, a site with an existing use value of £5 million was put on the market at £25 million on the assumption that it could be developed for housing.

“It was later withdrawn from the market on the expectation that the value would rise even further, setting back the delivery of any housing at all on that site by years and making it almost impossible to deliver affordable housing, even by the current broken definition.

“This inflation of value either places sites far beyond the reach of councils and housing associations or requires a significant quantum of private homes to be built to cover the costs—homes that either push up density to levels that are unacceptable to the surrounding community or are built at the expense of genuinely affordable homes.

The current viability rules were developed to encourage and stimulate building in a recession, but they have evolved to become something quite different: a quasi-scientific basis for negotiation between developers and councils, with the overt objective on the part of developers of reducing their obligation to build affordable housing. 

“The current system enables this to happen, as viability arguments can justify an appeal against refusal, and cash-strapped councils are reluctant to risk having to pay the applicant’s appeal costs if they lose. 

“While landowners should receive fair compensation, coded in law, they should not be entitled to speculative value that does not arise from any action or effort on their part.

“I am grateful to Members from across the House who have indicated their support for the Bill, and I commend it to the House.”

(Citation: HC Deb, 27 February 2019, c359) (Source: TheyWorkForYou)

Further reading: Tory MP who blocked law to stop FGM insists he was ‘protecting debate’ Sir Christopher Chope also blocked a bill outlawing upskirting. Report by Nicola Bartlett, political correspondent, The Mirror November 26th 2018

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