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The number of affordable housing units in the planning pipeline continued to rise last year but at a slower rate according to exclusive new research by Glenigan. The study covers detailed planning applications for new-build housing made by registered social landlords (RSLs) or housing association made during 2017. In 2016, the number of units in the planning pipeline had surged by nearly 20% but last year growth slowed to just 8%.

Glenigan economics director Allan Wilen said: “RSLs are still wrestling with changes to their funding model, which the government began pushing through a number of years ago, and continuing political uncertainty over the extension of the Right to Buy policy to housing association tenants.”

Earlier last year, the government pledged to extend the controversial Right to Buy to housing association tenants. However, a new ‘single departmental plan’ published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) just before Christmas did not include a single reference to the planned extension of Right to Buy according to The Independent.

Despite this uncertainty, RSLs are still becoming more active in terms of planned new homes and submitted 453 detailed planning applications of 10 or more units during the 2017 calendar year – up from 435 in 2016. The total number of homes in those applications was 25,901, which is an 8% rise on the 24,039 units included in detailed submissions in 2016, and houses remain the dominant form of house type in planning applications by RSLs.

In 2017, 48% of units in detailed applications were for some form of house and 47% were for apartments. The balance of units were retirement or bungalows. All of these measures for last year were unchanged on 2016 but the size of projects proposed in planning applications by RSLs has increased.

In 2017, the average detailed planning application contained 57 units compared to 55 units in 2016, but these increases are not translating into an increase in social housing work starting on site. Glenigan expects student accommodation to be a key driver of the social housing sector going forward, but the new research on RSLs does not include this category of work.

Glenigan expects the value of social housing work starting on site in 2018 to fall by 1% as safety work to estates becomes a priority following the tragedy at Grenfell in London. Mr. Wilen adds: “Near term, the progress of planned developments is being disrupted as associations review the implications of the Grenfell fire for refurbishment and new build schemes.”

The slowing in the rate of expansion in Glenigan’s figures is also evident in the most recent data from the National House-Building Council (NHBC) data for starts on affordable homes. In the three months to November 2017 the number of affordable homes starting on site fell 2% to 9,721 units according to NHBC and Glenigan’s figures do not suggest any major resurgence is likely.

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