Dispatches: the great housing scandal
A Channel 4 programme on "the great housing scandal" highlighted the insufficient quantity of affordable housing that is currently being provided, with a particular focus on the dearth of social rented units.
Affordable housing includes social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing provided to specified households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices.
In order to gain planning permission, Local Plans normally require affordable housing provision on a site which has capacity to provide 10 or more homes. In London, the Mayor has set a target of 35% affordable housing for all sites. Each London Borough is required to produce local plans that are in "general conformity" with the London Plan and to take the London Plan's policies into consideration. However, local councils will generally set their own target tenure splits and to date there has been considerable flexibility towards schemes favouring intermediate shared ownership in order to maximise the number of affordable units that a scheme will deliver.
Channel 4 stressed the need to provide more social rented units. Despite an increase in the overall number of affordable housing units being delivered in the last decade, the provision of social rented units has dramatically decreased. In 2016-2017 less than 13% of the affordable homes provided in England were for social rent. A lack of social rented units pushes these tenants into the private rental market, exacerbating the housing rental crisis.
Affordable rent units are sometimes being used as a middle ground, evidenced by their increasing number. Yet there is a significant difference between the two types of rented accommodation. Affordable rents are defined as no more than 80% of the market rent in the local area, in comparison to social rents which are typically between 30% and 40% of market rents. The Chartered Institute of Housing has consequently stated that social rents "are the only truly affordable option for many people".
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Theresa May has pledged a "new generation of council houses" and a green paper on social housing is due to be published in the New Year.