Affordable homes lost in office conversions

Councils say permitted development rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission are exacerbating the nation’s housing affordability crisis and should be scrapped.

Since 2015, 42,130 housing units in England have been converted from offices without having to go through the planning system. As a result, they included no affordable housing or supporting investment in infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services.

The figures represent about 7 per cent of new homes nationally, but the proportion is much higher in some parts of the country. Office-to-residential conversions under permitted development rules accounted for 40 per cent of new homes in Islington, Welwyn Hatfield, Mole Valley, Croydon and Derby in 2017/18.

Alongside scrapping the existing rules, the LGA is also urging the Government to drop proposals allowing upward extensions to be built without planning permission and the demolition of existing commercial buildings for new homes without planning consent.

A survey of councils in England found that nine in 10 were concerned about the quality, design and appropriateness of the location of housing; almost six out of 10 had fears about safety; and two-thirds thought that both contributions by developers to affordable housing and contributions for other infrastructure through Section 106 agreements had fallen.

Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing Spokesman, said: “Permitted development rules are taking away the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in and to ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place. This has resulted in the potential loss of thousands of desperately needed affordable homes.

“Councils, which are answerable to their residents, must be given back their ability to oversee all local developments to ensure they are good quality and help build prosperous places.”

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