AFFORDABLE home building in the North East could grind to a halt this year leaving thousands of families unable to get on the property ladder.
The warning comes from campaign group the National Housing Federation (NHF) which fears that Government cutbacks combined with changes to the current planning system could see the number of new homes built fall by 65%.
That would mean that people relying on social housing or shared ownership schemes which would give them a first step onto the property ladder could be left living in rented accommodation from the private sector.
The warning comes just days after the Government raided cash meant to transform rundown areas in Newcastle and Gateshead and took £780m nationally from the Homes and Communities Agency which had planned to provide millions of pounds for North East housing.
Scrapped housing targets, part of the sometimes controversial Regional Spatial Strategy, will make it more difficult to push ahead with plans for thousands more homes.
NHF chief executive David Orr fears the reduction could have a ‘catastrophic’ impact on the levels of affordable housing.
Mr Orr has written to new housing minister Grant Shapps suggesting that cuts in spending could see the number of new homes being built fall to its lowest level since 1990.
He said: “If the number of affordable homes drops by the extent highlighted by our modelling it would be dire news for the 4.5 million people on waiting lists and 2.6 million people living in overcrowded conditions.
“Access to a decent home is a key building block for a happy, healthy life, and unless we want to condemn millions of people on lower incomes to a lifetime of housing misery it is imperative that the Government reassesses some of the measures recently announced.”
Regeneration bosses across the region have already warned of the risk in losing focus on housing needs as the cuts continue. Alison Thain, boss at North East social housing group Fabrick and a board member at development agency One North East, recently told The Journal that while planning documents “may seem like gobbledygook to the man in the street” they were an essential tool for building firms.
She said: “What we are really doing here is making sure we have the homes built in the right places, where there’s good access to transport and the chance to grow the region. There is a danger that, without this, we’d all be building in the wrong places or that we would all be competing against each other and that brings a lot of problems.”
The National Affordable Housing Programme was meant to deliver 59,000 new social homes this financial year, but the Government has already announced £100 million will be cut from its budget.
Mr Shapps insisted, however, that scrapping targets and allowing local communities to decide appropriate levels of affordable homes building was the best solution.
He said: “Houses cannot be built by targets that don’t work with money that doesn’t exist. Rather than being told what to build and where, communities will be able to develop their own vision for their place.”