The number of affordable housing units in the planning pipeline leapt by nearly 20% last year to its highest level for six years, 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 associations made during 2016.
Overall, RSLs submitted 435 detailed planning applications of 10 or more units during the 2016 calendar year. The total number of homes in those applications was 24,039.
Glenigan economics director Allan Wilén said: “Although the number of affordable homes in the planning pipeline has risen substantially to its highest level in this decade, there has been a far bigger increase of 60% in the planning pipeline for private housebuilders.”
Back in 2010, 23.1% of the homes to enter the planning system were for some form of social housing but that ratio had sunk to just 10% in 2014 as changes to the funding of RSLs began to emerge.
After a resurgence in 2015, when the proportion of social housing in the planning pipeline rebounded strongly to 19.8% as private housebuilders reigned in their horns, this ratio fell to 15.1% last year.
Unlike private housebuilders, RSLs are however planning to build more apartments. Last year, 47% of the social housing new-build units to enter the planning pipeline in detailed applications were apartments, while just 12% of the private housebuilding pipeline is for flats.
Of the remaining 535 of social housing units entering the pipeline last year, 48% were for some form of house and the balance classified as some form of sheltered housing.
Despite this rise in planning activity, Social housing work starting on site has been weak. In 2016, the underlying value of social housing project starts rose by 4%. In the second quarter of this year, there was a 7% rise but Glenigan predicts that starts in this sector will fall 1% over the course of 2017 before edging up next year.
Mr Wilén added: “The social housing sector’s prospects continue to be hit by policies from the Conservative Government with social rents cut by 1% in real terms for four years up to 2020, which has hit associations’ funding streams.
“The Government’s decision to defer the extension of the “Right to Buy” to housing association tenants appears to have encouraged associations to bring forward new projects. The value of detailed planning approvals during the first five months of 2017 was 39% up on a year ago. We expect this improved development pipeline to lift sector activity over the next 18 months.
“Near term, however, the tragic event of the Grenfell fire is likely to disrupt the progress of planned developments. The immediate need to review and address any safety issues on the existing high rise stock is likely to divert associations’ internal resources. In addition, associations will wish to review the implications of the fire for any planned refurbishment and new build schemes.”
The rise in activity in Glenigan’s figures is reflected in data from the National House-Building Council, which reports that registrations to build new affordable homes leapt by 32% in the three months to May 2017.