Half of councils expected to miss housebuilding targets

National Audit Office report concludes planning system in England is ‘not working well’

Targets for new homes are likely to be missed by half of England’s local authorities, according to a damning assessment of the government’s housing strategy, while increasingly profitable building companies are getting away with paying less for infrastructure and more than half of councils have failed to draw up adequate plans to solve the housing crisis.

The National Audit Office (NAO) concludes that the planning system in England is “not working well” and says councils are struggling to negotiate successfully with developers, leaving swaths of the country vulnerable to either housing shortages or situations where the wrong homes are built in the wrong places. Since 2010 there has been an almost 40% real-terms cut in spending on planners, according to the public spending watchdog.

The NAO report follows claims from Conservative ministers that housebuilding is a top policy priority and that by the mid-2020s the rate will increase to 300,000 new homes a year. Between 2005-06 and 2017-18 the housebuilding rate has averaged 177,000 a year and the annual number has never exceeded 224,000.

Separately, a study by the National Housing Federation (NHF) has found that an estimated 1.3 million children are living in poverty in privately rented homes in England, an increase of 69% since 2008. Its report says 242,753 of these children would not be living in poverty if they had access to social housing as their parents would be paying lower rents.

Kate Henderson, the NHF’s chief executive, said: “It is a disgrace that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world we cannot provide our children with a secure and affordable home. The critical lack of social housing is pushing more and more families into poverty by forcing them into insecure privately rented homes they cannot afford.”

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