The social housing sector is pressing the ODPM to force housebuilders to build mixed communities or waste the opportunity offered by the four housing growth areas

The Chartered Institute of Housing, a professional body for the social housing sector, has written to deputy prime minister John Prescott to demand that he set a public service agreement for mixed communities if Labour is re-elected.

A PSA is an internal target to be met by an individual government department – such as bringing all social housing to a decent standard by 2010.

The CIH hopes that setting such an objective would force the ODPM to take a tougher stance with housebuilders that submit schemes where social and market housing are separate.

Chancellor Gordon Brown gave his backing in the recent Budget to tackling what he termed “sink estates” by introducing nine mixed communities pilots in deprived areas of England.

Sarah Webb, director of policy at the CIH, which has more than 19,000 members in councils and housing associations, said: “We have asked the ODPM to consider introducing a PSA target as we are sceptical about mixed communities happening without it.”

The government has pledged to build an extra 1.1 million homes by 2016 – most of them in the South-east – and invest £38bn towards this by April 2008.

Is the existing set of PPG regulations not enough?

Terry Fuller, HBF

“The pressure on developers to build schemes where social housing is separate from private homes is still quite high,” said Webb. “Without a PSA it’ll be easy for them to say ‘we’ll do it in the next scheme’ and so on.

“We have a great opportunity with all the housebuilding that is coming up and without a PSA to force developers’ hands we risk wasting it.”

Terry Fuller, chair of the affordable housing group at the House Builders Federation, said: “I am absolutely speechless. Is the existing set of PPG regulations not enough?

“I don’t see that developers deliberately try to avoid building mixed communities. There are already countless examples of where we are doing this. We don’t need any more rules and regulations.”

An ODPM spokesperson said: “We don't have this PSA target just now – that could of course change after the election. Right now we are happy to leave the responsibility with councils as set out in PPG3. We can’t set across-the-board targets for mixed communities as that would not meet local needs.”