DTLR unit to crack down on councils that pass schemes with low levels of social housing.
Housing minister Lord Falconer has created a unit within the DTLR with the job of getting developers to include more affordable homes in their projects.

The affordable housing unit will work by putting pressure on councils that allow developers to proceed with schemes that allocate little or no space to affordable housing.

In a speech last week at the Evening Standard's homebuyers show, he said: "Some councils are acting as a barrier to affordable homes, and this is not acceptable. The job of the unit is to bring all councils up to standard."

He said: "We don't want to choke off development, but we want developments to make a contribution to regeneration. We need to eke out all the potential of brownfield land in our cities."

Falconer added that he backed London mayor Ken Livingstone's target of 50% affordable housing on some developments, but that he favoured a flexible approach, rather than imposing a set quota.

He said: "Ken Livingstone is not unrealistic, because he recognises that you can't have 50% across the board. We share the same goal."

The DTLR said the affordable housing unit would be asking the private sector to second staff to the unit to help develop policy. The House Builders Federation is already involved with the new unit.

A DTLR spokesperson said: "It's very much a working partnership. It's not just the government imposing ideas and civil servants making decisions – we're involving partners."

An HBF spokesperson warned that affordable housing quotas could deter developers from starting projects. He said: "It's all a question of the bottom line. Private housebuilders will not take on any loss-making projects."

He added that local authorities should allow private developments with no affordable housing to go ahead on sites with low profit margins.

Falconer used the opportunity of a speech at the Housing Forum's annual conference last week to continue the attack on housing design begun by his predecessor, Nick Raynsford. He said: "Cookie cutter homes that are designed for nowhere but are found everywhere are still too often the norm."

n The number of homes being built must increase 60%, according to a forthcoming report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Land for Housing, to be published on 19 March, will call for the building of 225,000 homes each year until 2016 to accommodate growing life expectancy and immigration. This compares with the current rate of 140,000 homes a year.