The Minister spoke of the difficulty of quantifying Government targets for different types of housing. This is what can be quantified: the 1.25 million people on the waiting list for social housing, the 123,000 children living in temporary accommodation, and the fact that more than 99% of homes to rent in the private sector in Lambeth and Southwark have rent that is above the local housing allowance cap.
This Government are failing, as the coalition did before them, by cutting the subsidy for new social housing, redefining affordable housing to make a mockery of the word “affordable”, penalising residents with the bedroom tax, and lining the pockets of shoddy developers such as Persimmon and unscrupulous private sector landlords. The Government are also presiding over the disastrous relaxation of the rules on permitted development rights. In the time left available to me, it is this policy that I will focus on.
The expansion of permitted development rights is delivering poor quality homes in former office buildings up and down the country, resulting in children playing in industrial estate car parks, poor fire safety standards, and homes that are not homes but essentially hotels by the back door that are let out through Airbnb and other platforms for short-term lets. Most shockingly, having introduced this major planning reform, the Government have undertaken no evaluation of its impact and propose further expansions that would enable developers to demolish and rebuild office buildings without planning permission.
This policy is removing quality control and democratic accountability from housing delivery. Councils and communities have no say, and the developers who profit from these developments make no contribution to local community needs or the delivery of genuinely affordable housing. In many areas, the expansion of permitted development rights is delivering the slums of tomorrow and the fire safety horrors of tomorrow. This is happening on the Minister’s watch.
I therefore urge the Minister to do one small practical thing: to halt the expansion of permitted development rights while a full evaluation of its impact is undertaken, and to restore housing delivery to the full democratic control of local authority planning departments, which can decide where their communities need new housing, say where it should be built, and secure affordable housing contributions and funding for community facilities, so that we build not the slums of tomorrow but the high-quality, sustainable, affordable communities that this country so desperately needs.