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Housing experts warn Kent needs more affordable homes

PUBLISHED: 11:00 14 July 2012

Affordable housing

Affordable housing

Archant

But campaigners say new locally-set targets meet local needs

Housing experts are calling on the Government to release precious greenbelt land to allow for new affordable housing.

They are also demanding councils be named and shamed for failing to hit housing targets set out in local plans in a bid to ensure house building continues.

It follows the release of figures in the annual Housing the Nation report which revealed that the region will miss out on almost 10,000 homes from previously set targets.

Under the Labour government, house building targets were set out under the South East Plan, with 654,000 expected by 2026.

But this was scrapped by the coalition and control handed to district and borough councils to decide on housing numbers.

It prompted three to reduce their targets and several others to consider lowering numbers.

Gravesham council reduced its figures from around 9,000 to 4,600.

Now property experts have warned of the impact on the housing market and the lack of places for people to live.

Tim Cann, head of residential at BNP Paribas Real Estate – one of the organisations behind the Housing the Nation report – said with 200,000 households on council waiting lists across the south east, new homes were crucial.

“Effective changes need to be made in order to accommodate those still waiting for affordable housing,” he said.

“In order to keep the housing market alive, the Government needs to introduce swift changes which will ensure that current housing targets are not only met, but that they are not further reduced.”

The report recommended releasing greenbelt land, publicising housing league tables on local authorities and better engagement with communities.

It also called for the creation of a special “development projects team” within the Government to “prevent major schemes being stalled by burdensome local demands”.

But campaigners criticised the recommendations and stressed that the new National Planning Policy Framework, published earlier this year, made it clear brownfield land should be developed first and that the Greenbelt should be protected.

A spokesman from Protect Kent, the county’s branch of Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Whilst the consultants who produced this report are factually correct in that those targets will be missed, they are historic targets that the Government has chosen to scrap.

“They have decided that we should move to a new era of localism which will guide house building

“The reason the targets have not been met is because local authorities get to decide their own housing numbers according to local needs.

“We believe the idea put forward to release greenbelt land is disgraceful.

“We feel that in order to improve the housing situation, projects such as the ‘no use empty’ one in which buildings are brought back to market are far more effective at combating a housing shortage.

“We must also remember that there is land available if developers want to build houses.

“In fact, CPRE commissioned a report which found that even in the South East where housing demand is at its highest, land supply outpaced demand with one quarter of suitable brownfield plots going unused.”

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