Some of the UK’s biggest cities are allowing developers to plan huge new residential developments containing little or no affordable housing, an investigation has found.
In Manchester, none of the 14,667 homes in big developments granted planning permission in the last two years are set to be “affordable” – in direct contravention of its own rules.
In Sheffield – where house prices grew faster last year than in any other UK city – just 97 homes out of 6,943 (1.4%) approved by planners in 2016 and 2017 met the government’s affordable definition, according to the investigation by Guardian Cities.
In Nottingham, where the council aims for 20% of new housing to be affordable, just 3.8% of units given the green light by council planners meet the definition – whereby homes must either be offered for social rent or rented at no more than 80% of the local market rate.
Critics are worried Manchester could become like London, where people on average salaries can no longer afford to live anywhere central. In central Manchester, monthly rents have increased on average by more than £100 year on year.
Most councils across the UK have their own planning guidelines on what percentage of homes in any big development should be “affordable”. In Manchester, any development of 16 or more units or on a site larger than 0.3 hectares should include 20% affordable housing.
Asked why it ignored its own guidelines, Manchester city council said there are already 68,000 social rented properties in the city – a third of the housing stock, compared with the national average of 16%. Despite this, more than 12,900 people are waiting for a house on Manchester’s social housing register.
The council said once on the open market, many flats may meet its own definition of affordability, which is that that rent or mortgage payments should not cost more than a third of the average Mancunian household’s income of £27,000. That equates to rent of £687.50 per month rent or a mortgage of around £125,000.