Families in Greater Manchester wait three years for ‘decent’ accommodation
It comes as the government announces flexibility in terms of local councils meeting their housing targets
Last updated 2 hours ago
The government watered down local housing targets to avoid the first major Commons rebellion from Rishi Sunak’s premiership.
A Manchester-based homeless charity disagrees with the decision. Jo Walby is from the Mustard Tree, she says: “We have too many examples of families in temporary accommodation across Greater Manchester who have no place to move into.
“To be told that it’s not a priority, or that you can water down the goals to try to build housing, is really offensive.”
Jo went on to say, “There’s been decades and decades of underinvestment, and decades and decades of lack of house building, so there aren’t enough houses for people to move in, which means that the whole society suffers.
“It affects every sector of the population, and so it is a basic need to have a home, and it is increasingly difficult for more and more people. We pay taxes to the government, we vote them , why can’t we see that housing should be a priority?It’s not something that can be allowed to be diluted.
Labor has accused the Prime Minister of being ‘weak’, but Housing Secretary Mr Gove insisted the government is implementing promised reforms to the planning system to ensure new houses were being built: “I think it gives the impression that the government is strong because we are delivering on the urban planning reform that we promised a year ago.
“When I first came here I said we wanted to have a planning system that puts beauty and local democracy at the heart of our planning system, that’s what we have now through close engagement with MPs who really care about getting the right houses in the right places.”
In a letter to MPs on Monday, Mr Gove said the Leveling and Regeneration Bill would be amended to abolish mandatory local targets for housing construction.
Mr Gove said he recognized ‘there is no truly objective way of calculating the number of new homes needed in an area’ but that ‘the process of developing a housing plan should start with a number”.
The change would make the centrally determined target a “starting point”, with councils able to offer to build fewer houses if they faced “real constraints” or had to build at a density which would “significantly change the character” of their area.
Downing Street said on Tuesday that the pledge to build 300,000 homes each year by the mid-2020s remains a “target”.
The bill is expected to return to the House of Commons next week for the second day of its report stage.
The move represents a victory for a group of Tory backbenchers led by former Tory cabinet minister Theresa Villiers and Tory MP Bob Seely, who had proposed a series of amendments to the government’s landmark bill that would have meant radical changes to the planning system.
Around 60 MPs had signed an amendment that would have removed mandatory housing targets and the requirement for councils to demonstrate a five-year supply of housing land.
Proponents of the proposal said it would protect the environment and ensure communities are not forced to accept undesirable development.
But some Tories have criticized the proposal, with co-author of the 2019 Tory manifesto Robert Colville saying it would ‘enshrine ‘Nimbyism’ as a guiding principle of British society’.
Welcoming Mr Gove’s announcement, Ms Villiers said the government had ‘listened’ and the reforms would ‘rebalance the planning system and give local communities a greater say in what is built in their piece”.
She added: ‘The compromise we have achieved shows that positive change can be achieved through careful scrutiny of legislation.’
Other changes agreed by Mr Gove include levying a higher infrastructure tax on the development of new land, taking action to prevent land set-aside and ending the ‘duty of co-operation’ which forces rural and suburban areas to meet the housing needs of neighboring towns.
In the letter, Mr Gove said the government would ‘invest more homes in the North and Midlands to relieve pressure on the South’.
The government has also promised to consult on the requirement for planning permission before residential property can be rented out on websites such as Airbnb.