Sunderland MP questions Government housing plans

Sharon Hodgson MP
Sharon Hodgson MP
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PLANS to allow affordable housing quotas to be waived for new property developments have been questioned by a Sunderland councillor and an MP.

Developers are obliged to commit to providing a certain number of affordable homes when building new properties.

But in a Government-commissioned report published this week, Sir Adrian Montague suggests that allowing local authorities to forego that requirement would stimulate the private rental sector.

The report, by private equity firm 3i, said: “Whilst desirability of affordable housing should not be ruled out, it should be weighed against the benefits already built into market rent developments, in the context of an accurate assessment of the economics of building homes to rent.

“In many cases, it will be appropriate for authorities to waive affordable housing requirements in relation to schemes for private rental, or to the private rental component of larger schemes also including an owner-occupier component.”

Housing charities and other critics have claimed the plans will make it even harder for those already struggling to get on the property ladder, a stance echoed by the MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Sharon Hodgson.

“People are struggling enough to get on to the housing ladder at the moment because of the stalled home-building industry and tightened lending from the banks, so scrapping targets for affordable homes will only make things worse.

“Rents in the private sector hit a record high in July, and there are still questions about standards in that sector.

“Those issues need tackling, and I would welcome greater powers for local authorities to bring in the kind of homes their area needs.

“However, I don’t think that choking off the supply of affordable homes and forcing people who would rather buy down the renting route would be a positive step for the government to take.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, Sunderland Council’s cabinet member for health, housing and adult services also cast doubt on the wisdom of the chairman of 3i’s suggestions.

“There’s a lot of work that could be done to stimulate the housing market in Sunderland and the North East, and more new homes would be very welcome,” he said.

“However, cutting quotas for affordable housing may not necessarily be the answer.”

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