There is a lot of discussion around about the implications of the Government’s new policy of not allowing a spare bedroom if you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, with opponents to this policy claiming that this will force some people to move from their current homes because their changing family circumstances means that they have a ‘spare’ bedroom. I am going to ignore all arguments here about the fairness of this, and if it is sensible not to allow flexibility so that people can have their adult children to stay, visits from grand children, an invalid sleeping in another bedroom etc, but instead talk about something which I have not heard anyone else talk about, and this is ‘what are the implications for Town Planning and the Local Planning Authority?’
Paragraph 50 of the National Planning Policy Framework says:
‘To deliver a wide choice of high quality homes, widen opportunities for home
ownership and create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities, local
planning authorities should:
●● plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic
trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community
(such as, but not limited to, families with children, older people, people
with disabilities, service families and people wishing to build their own
●● identify the size, type, tenure and range of housing that is required in
particular locations, reflecting local demand; and
●● where they have identified that affordable housing is needed, set policies
for meeting this need on site, unless off-site provision or a financial
contribution of broadly equivalent value can be robustly justified (for
example to improve or make more effective use of the existing housing
stock) and the agreed approach contributes to the objective of creating
mixed and balanced communities. Such policies should be sufficiently
flexible to take account of changing market conditions over time.’
(The bold highlights have been added by me)
I think that this means that LPAs need to include an assessment of how many people will have to move from their current homes, because they have too many bedrooms, and therefore need, say, one bedroom homes, and incorporate this into their Housing Strategies, Plans and Planning Policies. In other words, they need to ensure that the homes which those having to move now need because of the Government’s new policy are available. They need to be assessing how many people will have to down-size, whether the appropriately sized homes are currently available, and if not allocate sites for this additional stock to be built.
I think Local Planning Authorities are obliged to plan for the implications and effects of the bedroom tax, but I have not heard of a single one which has picked up on this need and requirement.
And one final thought: I do hope that the ‘need’ for more single bedroom homes doesn’t end up with the UK having even more small homes – we already have the smallest new homes in the developed world, and small homes generally mean less flexible homes.