Most people say we should build more social housing survey on #HousingDay shows – I agree

Shropshire Council delivers one of the lowest proportions of social housing against market housing in the country. That’s claimed to be down to market conditions but I can’t help feeling that it also has a lack of ambition towards social rented housing.

On #HousingDay, a national survey for the National Housing Federation shows:

  • More than half of the British public support more social housing being built in their local area (58%).
  • Four-fifths say social housing should be available for people who can’t afford private renting as well as being a safety net for the most vulnerable (80%).
  • More than two out of three people say that social housing plays an important role in tackling poverty (67%).

That’s strong support for social housing at a point when government and local policies are tipped towards market housing.

It’s never easy to get social housing funded, or even approved these days.

Shropshire’s Core Strategy aims to deliver 9,000 affordable homes between 2006-2026, that’s a third of all new homes. But we are currently asking for between 10% and 20% of homes to be affordable (15% in Ludlow), so I doubt the 9,000 target can be achieved.

Yesterday, the South Planning Committee – of which I am a member – approved an 88-home development in Broseley with a 5.3% affordable housing contribution. Normally the ask would be 15% in Broseley, but the land is an old industrial site that is difficult to develop so the developers were given a discount. The committee was unanimous, even enthusiastic, in approving the Dark Lane development. Nevertheless, this decision shows how hard affordable housing ambitions are to achieve, especially when the starting point for negotiations with the developer is so low.

In another decision, which was much harder to make, the planning committee approved 20 affordable homes on the edge of Craven Arms in Sibdon Carwood parish. This site was promoted as an exception site – one that breaks normal planning rules. And it does break the rules. It’s on green fields off Watling Street and it’s a long way from the centre of town and services. But it’s an offer of affordable housing that Craven Arms and South Shropshire desperately need. So, with a number of misgivings, we approved this difficult site on a majority vote.

The longer-term perspective for affordable housing looks worrying. The government is planning to exclude developments of less than ten market dwellings from any requirement to contribute towards social housing. That will hit areas like South Shropshire where many developments are of less than ten homes.

As the National Housing Federation survey published today shows, there is broad support for social housing. It’s time we found ways of delivering it.

We also need to reduce the numbers of empty houses. There’s more than a hundred in and around Ludlow and I’ll write on that soon.