Helen Hayes introduces new planning reform bill to parliament to make ‘affordable’ housing actually affordable

Katherine Johnston (07 March, 2019) Housing

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

26745MP Helen Hayes.

Planning reform to make sure developments contain genuinely affordable housing is being spearheaded by Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes after she introduced a new bill to parliament last week.

Introduced in the House of Commons last Wednesday as a Ten Minute Rule Bill, if eventually passed, the Planning (Affordable Housing and Land Compensation) Bill would change the legal definition of ‘affordable housing’ as part of a reform to existing planning law.

Currently, this is defined as up to 80 per cent of market price, meaning so-called new affordable homes cost nearly half a million, out of the reach of many.

Hayes argues any new definition should be linked to income, rather than market value. She proposes that an affordable home is one with rent ‘no more than 35% of a household’s net income – including those in the lowest income bracket in their local authority.

Hayes, who was a town planner before becoming an MP in 2015 and sits on the government’s housing, communities, and local government select committee, also wants to put limitations on expectations of developer profit and land values.

The legislation it also aims to limit what is known as ‘hope value’, whereby the value of land is inflated by speculation, making it harder for councils to buy land to build social housing and easier for developers to argue new development isn’t ‘viable’.

The bill is backed by housing charity Shelter, the Town and Country Planning Association, and has cross-party support from MPs.

Hayes told the house: “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.”

After receiving backing from her colleagues, the bill will now have a second reading later this month, on March 22.

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