Shelter warns of housing ‘black hole’ over conversion schemes

Affordable housing in Croydon may be under threat from a government proposal which risks “supercharging” a social housing get-out clause, according to the housing charity Shelter.

Green Dragon House in Croydon town centre is a converted office block. The developer was able to market 119 flats under PD without providing any affordable or social housing

Currently developers do not have to pay contributions to the council for social housing or make any of the homes affordable, when they convert non-residential buildings, like office blocks, into homes using “Permitted Development Rights”, or PD.

The government is considering a proposal to expand this so developers can demolish and replace commercial buildings using the same legal mechanism.

Shelter is concerned that this would create a new “social housing black hole” by giving developers beefed up powers to dodge their obligations to build social housing.

Analysis from Shelter shows Croydon is one of Britain’s “hotspots” for use of this get out clause, with 38 per cent of all homes delivered in the borough last year coming through Permitted Development rights.

This means that developers did not have to make any of these new homes affordable or make financial contributions to build social housing in Croydon, despite more than 5,000 households being on the council waiting list for social housing. And this despite the Labour-run council acting in 2015 to halt any further office-to-residential conversions going ahead in the town centre.

Raising the alarm: Shelter’s Polly Neate

Croydon town centre has more than 1,000 flats that have been converted from former office blocks. Few of those have been subjected to scrutiny by the local authority’s planning department because of the permitted development rules introduced under the former Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles. Labour councillors in Croydon have labelled some of the permitted development flats “the slums of the future”.

Nationally, Shelter’s analysis shows that while nearly 1 in 10 homes are delivered in this way, it is most acute in just a handful of areas; with only 10 local authorities – including Croydon – accounting for nearly one-quarter of all new homes delivered using PD.

Polly Neate, Shelter CEO, said: “There are 5,000 households on the social housing waiting list in Croydon, and yet new plans are now being developed that could supercharge a social housing get-out clause for developers. This risks creating a social housing black hole just at the time when the people of Croydon need them most.

“We need to raise the alarm so the government halts these plans and instead looks to bring down the cost of land to build the social homes we need.”

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1 Response to Shelter warns of housing ‘black hole’ over conversion schemes

  1. derekthrower says:

    The current political administration has rigged the housing market in favour of developers and this will be the most egregious extension of this process. The problem for many of the current refurbishment is clear that they are not selling and people do not want to pay the massive service charges accompanying the low standards of accommodation. Expect massive debt write offs for developers in the future and the losses to be incurred by those with negative equity. It is clear now that lobbying by the Property Developers to extend refurbishment into replacement is an admission that the policy is now in deep trouble. Wonder who is going to pick up the pieces of this failed policy when the failure works it way through the system?

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