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Council leaders warn of ‘logjam’ for renters

More than a third of private renters are spending more than 30% of their income on rent, according to new figures from the Local Government Association (LGA).

Ahead of the LGA’s annual conference, which starts tomorrow in Birmingham, the association has highlighted the growing cost of rented accommodation and called on the government again to relax the financial rules to allow them to build more affordable homes.

According to the LGA, 43% of private renters spend more than 30% of their income on rent, the same percentage as those renting from a housing association

And 14% are spending more than half their income on rent.

The research also claims private rents currently average at £852 across the country, with rents defined as affordable set up to 80% of market rates, at an average of £545 per household.

‘When one in seven private renters are spending half their income on rent, it’s no wonder we have a rental logjam, with a shortage of homes with genuinely affordable rent, and young people struggling to have enough income left over to save for a deposit,’ said LGA housing spokesperson, Cllr Judith Blake.

‘Only an increase of all types of housing, including those for affordable or social rent, will solve our housing shortage and a renaissance in house building by councils is ultimately needed if we are to boost affordability.

‘For that to happen, councils must be able to borrow to invest in housing and replace sold homes and reinvest in building more of the genuine affordable homes our communities desperately need.’

The LGA figures have been published on the same day as a new report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which claims more than two thirds of the homes now planned for green belt land are unaffordable.

The CPRE’s annual Green Belt Under Siege report shows more than 70% of homes proposed for development on green belt land are not expected to be affordable.

The report estimates 425,000 homes are now due to be built on green belt land, which is an increase of 54% on last year’s figure – 275,000.

The CPRE also claim the government’s New Homes Bonus scheme is ‘handsomely rewarding’ councils with £2.4bn in extra money, without delivering affordable homes.

‘Green belt is being lost at an ever faster rate, yet the type of housing being built now or in the future will do very little to address the affordable housing crisis faced by many families and young people,’ warned the CPRE’s director of campaigns and policy, Tom Fyans.

‘The only ones set to benefit from future green belt development will be landowners and the big housebuilders, not communities in need of decent, affordable housing,’ he added.

‘Protecting the green belt is part of, not a barrier to, solving the housing crisis. It encourages us to focus on the 1 million plus homes we can build on suitable brownfield sites, and avoid the environmental costs of urban sprawl. The green belt makes our towns and cities better places to live. It provides quick access to the countryside. The government must do more to protect it.’

The assistant director of the Rural Services Network, Andy Dean, commented: ‘All developments in the green belt should make a substantial contribution to affordable housing needs and have local support.

‘Many local authorities, housing associations and local community organisations do a great job in delivering affordable homes in appropriate numbers to meet local need,’ added Mr Dean.

‘We are keen to see the right tools made available to enable such good work to be extended across many more rural communities where clear need exists and where the existing stock of affordable homes is often disappearing.’

A spokesman for the County Councils Network said it has long argued for ‘upscaled strategic planning, streamlining and joining up [of] the system’.

‘This would give councils the ability to come together to target development in the most appropriate areas, with the necessary infrastructure created in tandem so communities do not feel the extra burden,’ added the spokesman.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communites and Local Government said the government ‘is determined to make housing more affordable’.

‘We’ve already helped more than 400,000 households into homeownership through government-backed schemes since 2010, and the number of first-time buyers is at a nine-year annual high,’ said the spokesperson.

‘Our housing white paper sets out further measures to build more homes, including our £3bn home building fund which will provide development finance for homes to rent and buy.’

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