Headlines suggest that hundreds of millions of pounds, earmarked for affordable housing, is not being spent by local authorities.  

Is this criticism fair, and why is this happening?

It varies by area, but some local authorities who are coming under fire have already committed all of the money they are holding for new affordable housing schemes.  For example, Wandsworth Council is holding £20m - all of which is committed to new projects.  But in other areas, little if any of the money has yet been allocated to specific projects, which is a concern.  

This news would seem to support the belief that developers should be required to provide affordable housing on their developments sites, rather than given a cash allocation to the local authority instead.  Sites are increasingly hard to find, and there will inevitably be a delay in allocating such cash payments to new development opportunities.  

This is, however, only part of the picture.  Cash payments to the local authority, instead of affordable housing being provided on site, can provide much needed financial support to ambitious redevelopment programmes.  This approach can result in a better use of the funds overall, particularly where payments from a number of smaller schemes can be pooled together. 

So, as is often the case, the truth is much more complicated than the headlines would have us believe.