Almost 20,000 affordable homes have been lost because of rules allowing office blocks to be converted into housing, local politicians have warned ahead of parliament’s return.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on ministers to remove “permitted development” rights, which allow offices and other commercial properties to be converted into homes without planning permission, in the Queen’s Speech.
In total, 73,575 new homes – often luxury flats – have been created by converting office blocks since the rules were introduced in England and Wales in 2015. The LGA said by allowing developers to bypass the planning system, which is responsible for imposing affordable housing policies, an estimated 18,000 affordable homes have been lost amid ongoing efforts to end the housing crisis.
Cllr David Renard, the LGA’s housing spokesperson, said: “There is a need for more affordable housing across the country but regrettably premises such as offices, agricultural buildings, shops, restaurants and light industry can now be converted into houses without the need to provide any affordable homes.
“This is why we would like to see the permitted development rights removed. Giving planning powers back to councils will also support local ambitions to revive and reimagine high streets and town centres. The upcoming Queen’s Speech should also give councils further powers to bring vacant properties back into use.”
Councillors argued that developments that go through the planning system are subject to more stringent quality assurance, subsequently improving the overall quality of housing on offer.