Affordable homes lost to office conversions

New LGA analysis has found that more than 13,500 affordable homes could have been lost in the past four years because of rules allowing offices to be converted into housing without planning permission.

In some areas, office conversions under ‘permitted development’ amount to nearly half of all new housing.

Latest figures show that since 2015, 54,162 new homes have been converted from offices in England. Potentially, this has led to the loss of 13,540 affordable homes, based on the average council stipulating a requirement of 25 per cent affordable housing on new developments.

While office conversions amount to 6 per cent of all new homes nationally, in some areas a significantly higher proportion of new housing is office-to-residential conversions. For example, in 2018/19, more than half (51 per cent) of all new homes in Harlow were office conversions, with 48 per cent in Norwich, 43 per cent in Three Rivers, 39 per cent in Spelthorne, and 35 per cent in Slough.

The LGA wants permitted development rules to be scrapped and local communities allowed to have a vital say on new developments in their area.

Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s Housing Spokesman, said: “Serious concerns remain over the high numbers of homes that continue to be converted from offices without planning permission.

“Permitted development rules are resulting in the alarming potential loss of thousands of desperately needed affordable homes.

“Planning is not a barrier to house building, with councils approving nine in 10 planning applications. By scrapping permitted development rules, the Government can give councils and local communities the ability to shape the areas they live in and ensure homes are built to high standards with the necessary infrastructure in place.”

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